The Georgia players who were left standing Saturday afternoon entered the postgame interview trailer bloodied and a bit dazed, but still smiling.
The Bulldogs -- who saw their quarterback sent to the hospital and three running backs unable to play by the end of the game -- were stunned several times by Vanderbilt but kept their feet long enough to hold onto a 29-19 victory.
"It's like going into a boxing match," Georgia coach Jim Donnan said. "You're going against a team that's pretty good;you feel like you've got a chance to beat them, but you know they are going to give you some counterpunches. You've got to keep going at them and going at them and understand that they are going to keep coming back.
"Those guys hang in there and fight every week. They need a breakout win; there's no question. Fortunately for us, it won't be us this year."
The No. 14 Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1 SEC) weren't able to put up the solid approach they used to smother Tennessee last week. Instead, they traded punches with the Commodores (2-5, 0-4), allowing the worst offense in the conference to roll up 442 yards but coming out on top by making several critical plays.
"We had big plays and they had big plays, but it seemed like our big plays were bigger than their big plays," said cornerback Jamie Henderson, who blocked an extra point and a field goal.
Vanderbilt's defense came at the Bulldogs hard all day, blitzing Georgia often and holding the Bulldogs to 307 yards of offense, including only 91 on the ground. However, the Commodores couldn't capitalize on their opportunities thanks to four turnovers.
"I don't think Georgia beat us," Vanderbilt linebacker Jamie Winborn said. "We beat ourselves. I think we are better than a 2-5 team."
When it was all over, quarterback Quincy Carter had to be taken to the hospital for an X-ray on his left shoulder. The initial diagnosis for Carter's injury was a sprained shoulder. Carter was scheduled to have an MRI late Saturday night and the results will be read today, associate athletic director Claude Felton said.
Running back Jasper Sanks didn't play because of a shoulder injury he sustained in Tuesday's practice, and reserve running backs Musa Smith (knee) and DeJuan Green (ankle) both were knocked out of the game. Sanks and Smith are expected to be ready for next week's game at Kentucky. Green's status is up in the air.
Donnan said he thought Vanderbilt was a "pretty clean team," but a couple of Georgia players said the Commodores were extra aggressive.
"I think they (hit) a little after the whistle," said Terrence Edwards, who led the Bulldogs with five catches for 135 yards. "I got hit a couple times when I was putting the ball down and they were piling on. They did the same thing last year. I think that's just Vanderbilt football."
Brett Millican finished as Georgia's leading rusher with 51 yards on 11 carries.
"A win is a win," Millican said. "Every week in the SEC, you are going to be challenged, so to come away with a victory, no matter who you are playing, is a positive."
Vanderbilt returned the opening kickoff to Georgia's 47-yard line and scored nine plays later to go up 6-0. However, Henderson blocked John Markham's extra-point attempt and Tim Wansley picked it up and returned it 89 yards for two points.
The Bulldogs then took the lead on a 67-yard pass from Quincy Carter to Edwards with 5:56 left in the first quarter. It was the Bulldogs' longest play from scrimmage this season.
The teams then traded scores before Georgia landed its second big punch of the game. Vanderbilt trailed just 16-13 and had moved the ball to the 50-yard line when Wansley picked off a pass from Greg Zolman and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown to give Georgia 23-13 lead.
Vanderbilt closed the gap to 26-19 on a 22-yard Markham field goal with 2:01 left in the third quarter and appeared to take over the momentum by holding Georgia to a three-and-out on its next possession.
The Bulldogs punted to set the Commodores up at their own 42-yard line, but Georgia landed the knockout blow on the first play of that possession when Cory Robinson intercepted a Zolman pass.
Georgia extended its lead to 10 on that possession with a 30-yard Billy Bennett field goal and was content to milk the clock from that point on.
"In the fourth quarter, we were sitting on it," Donnan said. "We probably could have tried a few more things. I'm glad to get a 10-point win the way we played today. We should have put them away, but from the (start of) the second half, we were always in pretty good shape, I thought."
Georgia came into the game with the nation's best pass defense but wilted in the face of Zolman and Stricker. Zolman completed 28 of 42 passes for 334 yards, which was just 10 yards short of his career high. Stricker caught eight passes for 98 yards.
"In the locker room right now, everybody's head is kind of down because we didn't play up to our level," Henderson said. "We know we didn't come out there playing the way we should."
However, Georgia's defense made up for its inconsistency by making the key plays needed to thwart the Commodores' upset bid.
"What I saw and everybody else saw today was what the offense is supposed to do without the turnovers and all those dropped balls," Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Steve Crosby said. "If we don't make the critical errors, this is by far the best the offense has played since I've been here."
Vanderbilt flew home to Nashville feeling like it had given a championship contender all it could handle.
"Georgia looks like they have a chance to go all the way," Vanderbilt coach Woody Widenhofer said. "I thought we had a terrific scheme on offense. I was hoping we could protect the ball, which we didn't."