ATHENS, Georgia — Derek Mason thought his Vanderbilt team was gaining momentum for a comeback against Georgia before a botched play spoiled the plan.
Driving for a chance to cut No. 13 Georgia's lead to 10 points in the third quarter, Vanderbilt's Stephen Rivers threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown as the Commodores fell to the Bulldogs 44-17 on Saturday.
"I thought we did some good things in this game," Mason said. "I thought we showed the ability to have long drives, but weren't able to finish those drives."
Rivers led a touchdown drive in the second quarter before leading the Commodores to a field-goal drive to open the second half.
Georgia star tailback Todd Gurley ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns and surprised the Commodores by completing a 50-yard pass to set up another touchdown.
Gurley had scoring runs of 4 and 14 yards in the first quarter as Georgia (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) built an early 21-0 lead.
Vanderbilt (1-4, 0-4) remained winless in the SEC.
The Commodores, trailing 27-10, still had comeback hopes as they drove in Georgia territory in the third quarter. Those hopes were crushed when Devin Bowman intercepted Rivers' fourth-down pass from the Georgia 29 and returned the ball 63 yards for a touchdown.
It was Vanderbilt's only turnover, but it was costly.
Mason said the wrong play was called.
"We had a little bit of momentum and the wrong play was called and you look up and the ball is going the other way," Mason said. "It was a bad play all the way around for us. I thought we were just starting to get our feet going and get some momentum."
Tight end Steven Scheu, who had five catches for 74 yards, said players in the huddle thought the play call "was kind of funky."
"Once we heard it in the huddle, guys were kind of looking around thinking that probably wasn't the best call, but nobody stood up and said anything about it, unfortunately," Scheu said. "It was just obviously the wrong play call against that sort of defense that they were running so that's a tough break."
Vanderbilt's Ralph Webb ran for 77 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run.
Freebeck led a fourth-quarter drive capped by Dallas Rivers' 6-yard scoring run.
Freebeck completed 9 of 18 passes for 100 yards. Stephen Rivers completed 7 of 13 passes for 88 yards with one interception.
The Commodores were caught off-guard by Gurley's second-quarter pass which wobbled before reaching tight end Jeb Blazevich.
"On the wildcat we were mostly expecting him to run, but they kind of just threw us off," said Vanderbilt linebacker Nigel Bowden. "Everybody was coming downhill, so they got us off-balance and got their tight end to go downhill."
Georgia coach Mark Richt said it was a thing of beauty when compared with some of the star tailback's throws during practice this week.
"I wasn't like, 'Man, I can't wait to call that play,'" Richt said, smiling. "I just didn't know."
Gurley's 5-yard scoring run was out of the wildcat formation. Another direct snap to Gurley in the second quarter produced the unexpected twist. Instead of keeping the ball for a run as Vanderbilt's defense expected, Gurley stopped and launched the wobbly left-handed pass to Blazevich, the tight end who was wide open for the big gain.
The play set up Mason's 5-yard scoring pass to Conley.
Georgia freshman Nick Chubb had 78 yards rushing, including a 33-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds remaining.
Brice Ramsey took over for Mason on Georgia's third series and completed two of three passes for 31 yards to set up Gurley's 14-yard scoring run.
Mason completed 11 of 17 passes for 121 yards and one interception with scoring passes of 44 and 5 yards to Conley.
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