Fourteenth-ranked Georgia nearly let a hangover turn into a loss Saturday until the Southeastern Conference's worst defense bailed out the Bulldogs.
Kendrell Bell had two of Georgia's four interceptions in the second half and the Bulldogs scored 24 points in the fourth quarter in rallying for a 27-17 victory over Vanderbilt. It was Georgia's biggest fourth-quarter comeback since 1965 when it rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat North Carolina.
"The momentum that the defense provided in the second half gave the whole team a lift," said Quincy Carter, who tossed fourth-quarter touchdowns of 6 and 25 yards. "They played real well and made us work a lot harder."
Georgia (5-2, 3-1), trying to get over its loss at Tennessee last week, struggled early and wound up playing most of the game without leading rusher Jasper Sanks. It dropped the ball four times in the first 20 minutes but didn't lose any.
Carter denied that the Bulldogs suffered a letdown after last week's 37-20 loss at Tennessee. He credited the letdown to the different atmosphere Saturday.
"At Tennessee last week, there was 107,000. You come into this environment, probably about 30-40,000. It's different for us. We've got to be mature enough to get up for everybody," Carter said.
Georgia's defense, which came in giving up a league-worst 364.2 yards a game, provided the spark. The defense stopped Vanderbilt on its first possession as Richard Seymour intercepted Greg Zolman's pass at the Georgia 9.
Coach Jim Donnan called that the play of the game.
"At that point, they had a chance to go up 24-3. We answered the call there on the next series and got a score," Donnan said.
Carter drove Georgia 72 yards and got lucky when Vandy's Wally Conyers tipped his pass at the lininto Randy McMichael's hands for a 6-yard TD at 14:51 of the fourth quarter, making it 17-10.
Vandy stalled on the next possession and then failed on a fake punt on fourth-and-16 from its 21 when Jonathan Shaub was tackled for a 5-yard loss. The Bulldogs needed only three plays before Robert Arnaud scored on a 1-yard run to tie the game with 12:02 left.
Coach Woody Widenhofer took the blame for calling the fake. A similar play had worked last month against Duke, and he said that the play had worked most times in practice.
"That time they changed the rush and had two players on the outside. If I had it again, I still would have called it," Widenhofer said.
The Commodores, looking for their first winning season since 1982, didn't quit, getting into Georgia territory on their next two possessions. But Bell intercepted Zolman's pass at the Georgia 32, and Cory Robinson stopped Vandy's next drive with an interception at the Vandy 31.
Bell stopped Vandy's final chance with an interception with 3:02 left.
Sanks left in the second quarter with an injured right shoulder after rushing five times for 39 yards.
Vanderbilt jumped to a 10-0 lead when, after John Markham's 32-yard field goal, Zolman lateraled to receiver Tavarus Hogans who threw the ball back across the field to Zolman. The quarterback caught the low pass and ran in for the TD with 34 seconds left in the first.
The Bulldogs finally got into Vanderbilt territory on their first possession of the second quarter, but Lamont Turner intercepted Carter's pass and returned it 59 yards for a 17-0 lead with 12:48 to go in the second.
It was the first time Carter had a pass intercepted in 170 attempts, six shy of Eric Zeier's school record.
Hap Hines finally got Georgia on the board with a 35-yard field goal just before halftime. He added a 28-yarder in the fourth.
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