Saturday's South Carolina-Vanderbilt game requires the dusting off of a few cliches: “It's never over 'til it's over,” “It's never over until the fat lady sings,” and “You have to play 60 minutes.”
I've been scratching my head trying to remember the last time a potential USC rout turned into a potential nightmare.
Before the game I had been worried about Vanderbilt's emotions to start the game. I expected them to come out with fire in their eyes, but when Chaz Sutton sacked VU quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels on third down of the opening series, those fears were alleviated.
And when the Gamecocks made it 28-0, with 10 minutes left in the first half, I was already writing a story line in my head. I wondered what kind of speech could coach James Franklin give his team at halftime, down at least four touchdowns with only one first down offensively? What would he say to his defense, that had given up touchdowns on four-straight possessions?
But suddenly the worm began to turn. An ill-advised Dylan Thompson pass was intercepted, and some poor attempts at tackling led to a 69-yard return and 1-yard Vandy touchdown.
“Ah, that's no big deal,” I thought, but when Vandy tacked on a 54-yard field goal on the last play of the half, my brilliant story lines vanished.
When the Gamecocks opened the second half with a smooth-as-silk 10-play, 75-yard drive to make it 35-10, I thought it was a done deal. But apparently someone forgot to inform the Vanderbilt players that the game was over.
Vandy put together a 10-play, 49-yard drive to make it 35-17, and when Shon Carson was separated from the football on the ensuing kickoff, it took just one play and eight seconds for the Doers to score and turn it into a ball game at 35-25, with 14 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Another miscue, a fumbled punt by T.J. Gurley, put the Commodores back in business at the USC 37. I'll be honest with you, I was starting to sweat on a very pleasant evening, that the Gamecocks were going to let this game get away from them. It took an intuitive play by a senior cornerback to save the day, when he intercepted a pass at USC's one-yard line.
“Jimmy Legree made a nice pick,” Steve Spurrier said. “They hadn't run a slant (pattern) all night. Usually they run a fade (route) in that situation, but Jimmy saw their receiver line up a little wider, he made the decision to jump inside, and he made the right call to get the interception.”
The Gamecocks then made a game-sealing 17-play drive that left Vandy with just 55 ticks on the clock.
One of the strange aspects of the game is that, if someone handed you the stat sheet, without telling you the score, you would think the game wasn't even close. Vanderbilt had just 268 yards of total offense on 55 plays. (Defensive coordinators will tell you that if an opponent runs less that 60 plays, the game is well in hand.)
On the other side, Carolina racked up 579 yards of total offense, ran 87 plays, and made 11-of-13 third-down conversions. Connor Shaw was close to brilliant with a 21-of-29, 284-yard, three-touchdown performance. Nine different receivers caught at least one pass, with Bruce Ellington leading the way with 8 receptions for 111 yards and one TD.
Shaw was the leading rusher with 85 yards, but Mike Davis showed he is an emerging star with 77 yards on 17 carries. Without the mistakes, it could have been the rout it was shaping up to be in the first quarter.
The Gamecocks have this week off, and I personally think it comes at a good time. They haven't put it all together yet, and this week will give them the opportunity to work out some problems that have plagued them during this 2-1 start.
It's a great time to be a Gamecock!
GLENN SNYDER BIO
A native of Union, he graduated from Union High School in 1964 where he was a three-sport letterman for the Yellow Jackets.
When he was 13, he came to Columbia with two super Gamecock fans. They took him to the stadium and introduced him to coach Marvin Bass. When he saw the Horseshoe, he knew immediately where he was going to school, that he would live in Columbia for the rest of his life, and his dream was to be a sportswriter.
A journalism/media arts major (1964-1969), his first job after school was with the South Carolina Farm Bureau, where he was the Assistant Director of Communications. He managed Carolina Printing Co. for several years, where he met Dexter Hudson, which led to a 30-year career with Spurs & Feathers as senior writer and columnist, which ended this past June.
He and his wife, Mary, have two children, Kevin (41) and Jennifer (34).
Contact Glenn at email@example.com