NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Georgia Bulldogs are fully in control of the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division, and they don't plan on tripping themselves up anytime soon.
D.J. Shockley threw three touchdown passes, Thomas Brown rushed for 91 yards and the fifth-ranked Bulldogs beat Vanderbilt 34-17 on Saturday night in a rare SEC East showdown with a team that has been the league's worst for decades.
Instead, Shockley remained undefeated as a starter along with the Bulldogs (6-0, 4-0), who have a two-game division lead with the victory and Florida's 21-17 loss to No. 10 LSU earlier Saturday.
"We've got some cushion, but the worst thing in the world we can do is get beat next week," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Then we have no cushion. We're only halfway through the schedule. We're not in a position where we can relax."
The Bulldogs knew before they took the field that Florida had lost, and that left them playing the only SEC East team with one league loss in Vanderbilt. They started slowly but scored 17 straight points in the second quarter and improved to 18-2 on the road under Richt.
"We still have to go out and play hard," Shockley said. "Anything can happen in this league."
The SEC's top offense rolled up 446 yards. Shockley was 15-of-30 for 298 yards with TD passes to three different receivers, and Brandon Coutu also kicked field goals of 40 and 28 yards.
The Commodores (4-3, 2-2) had a chance to turn in the best start in school history, a feat that still belongs to the 1915 Commodores.
Georgia, with two defensive starters already out because of injuries, lost tackle Kedric Golston in the first quarter with an injury to his left elbow, and Richt said he may be out up to three weeks. The Bulldogs gave up a season-high 17 points and allowed the
Commodores roll up 324 yards offense but still sacked Jay Cutler four times.
"We made too many physical and mental mistakes to hang in there with a team like Georgia," Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said.
The Commodores, trying to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1982, had a chance to pull within six late in the third quarter after Cassen Jackson-Garrison broke loose for a 50-yard run to the Georgia 34.
Marlon White was running wide open toward the end zone, but Cutler's pass went through his hands so cleanly the ball bounced off his knee. Vandy instead settled for a 45-yard field goal by Bryant Hahnfeldt and pulled to 27-17 with 3:55 left in the third.
That was one of at least five dropped passes by the Commodores that had Johnson upset.
"I'm not saying we win the game if we catch some of those balls, but those plays prevent you from having a chance to win," Johnson said.
Vanderbilt then forced Georgia to punt for the first time in six possessions, but the Commodores couldn't pick up a first down. Hahnfeldt stood on his goal line waiting for the snap to punt, and Tyson Browning broke through for the block.
Shockley found Bryan McClendon three plays later on an 18-yard TD pass he may have trapped against the ground. The play was reviewed but it was ruled a catch for a 34-17 lead in the opening minute of the fourth that sealed the victory.
Richt said Shockley, who kept many plays alive by scrambling around to find his receivers, was the difference.
"Without a doubt, he was our player of the game," Richt said.
The Bulldogs started a little slowly, a bit of an expected letdown for any team going from the SEC's biggest stadium at Tennessee where they played last week before more than 108,000 to the league's smallest where Vanderbilt's biggest crowd this season still was just 38,822.
Georgia got going in the second quarter by scoring 17 points and rolling up 234 yards offense for a 17-7 halftime lead.
Kregg Lumpkin got Georgia on the board by capping an 81-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run with 13:34 left in the quarter.
Vanderbilt had some good bounces early such as when Jackson-Garrison fumbled, the ball popped right to White. The Commodores tied the game at 7 by answering with an 80-yard drive of their own.
Jackson-Garrison scored on a 4-yard run that left Golston with an injured left elbow. He had to be helped off the field.
Shockley made it 14-7 with a 10-yard TD toss to Brannan Southerland with 4:13 left in the quarter, and Coutu added his first field goal as time expired.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... D.J. Shockley connected with Bryan McClendon on a disputed 18-yard TD to put the Dawgs up 34-17 in the fourth.
Gameball goes to... Shockley, who threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns against the Commodores.
Stat of the game... 2: The Bulldogs win coupled with Florida's loss gives Georgia a two-game lead in the SEC East.