1. Connor Shaw, Justice Cunningham showed toughness
Junior quarterback Connor Shaw left the game three times after bruising his right shoulder when he was hit diving for extra yardage. He said he’ll “absolutely” be ready to play against East Carolina.
“He’s determined and he loves this team and he’s going to do whatever he can to win the game,” Marcus Lattimore said of Shaw. “He was hurting bad but he was not going to come out. He knew that we needed him.”
Meanwhile, senior tight end Justice Cunningham had a key 20-yard reception on the game’s go-ahead drive. Cunningham lost his helmet on a jarring hit from a Vanderbilt defender, but held onto the ball.
2. Teams will scheme for Jadeveon Clowney
USC’s standout sophomore defensive end had a solo tackle and a sack on Vanderbilt’s second drive, but was held mostly in check the rest of the game. He finished with four tackles.
The Commodores slid their protection toward Clowney as the game progressed and neutralized him, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said.
“We’ll go back and address some better ways to attack the slide because I think we’ll see it a lot this season,” Ward said. “People are going to set their protection to him.”
3. The defense will be aggressive
Ward was true to his word that he was going to be aggressive.
With 1:42 remaining in the game, Ward called a zero blitz on fourth-and-seven from Vanderbilt’s 38-yard line. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers managed to get a long pass off toward Jordan Matthews, but senior safety D.J. Swearinger broke it up.
“If it works, it’s a good call,” said Spurrier, who said he talked with Ward about the zero blitz call.
“I respect the boss and he’s probably correct,” Ward said, “but I want my guys to know that we’re going to be aggressive. I wasn't going to sit back there and let him have the opportunity to scramble and make some plays like he had done.”
Five Gamecocks had sacks. Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles had eight tackles and a sack.
4. Quarterback depth is unclear
Backups Dylan Thompson and Seth Strickland combined to go 0-for-4 while Shaw was out. Thompson, a redshirt sophomore from Boiling Springs, threw three incompletions and carried the ball five times for minus-4 yards.
Thompson remains No. 2, Spurrier said.
5. Lattimore should get most carries when the game is on the line
Lattimore had 23 of the 25 running back carries on the night. He finished with 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Most important, he gained 44 yards in the fourth quarter to lead USC to its comeback win.
6. Sample size too small for receivers
It’s too soon to say who will emerge from South Carolina's receiving corps. Lattimore had three of the game’s seven receptions.
Ace Sanders had two grabs, while Damiere Byrd had one. Spurrier was disappointed the passing game wasn’t any better than it was.
7. Offensive line had an up-and-down night
The USC offensive line helped pave the way for a 205-yard rushing night, but it struggled in pass protection as Vanderbilt brought pressure much of the night.
Also, freshman left tackle Brandon Shell was fatigued and came out of the game. Mike Matulis and Cody Gibson manned the tackle spots with Shell out.
“He was just a little tired, carrying 325 (pounds) all night in the heat of the night, the first time he ever played,” Spurrier said.
8. Redshirt likely off for freshmen T.J. Gurley, Mike Davis, Jerell Adams
T.J. Gurley, from Cairo, Ga., got plenty of early playing time at safety and special teams Thursday. Tailback Mike Davis, from Lithonia, Ga., had one carry, a four-yard gain.
Tight end Jerell Adams, a preseason standout from Pinewood, played but wasn’t targeted. Wide receiver Shaq Roland, from Lexington, dressed for the game but did not play.
9. Jimmy Legree provided a solid effort
Legree finished with a career-high seven tackles and broke up one pass in his start at cornerback in place of the injured Akeem Auguste.
10. Tyler Hull, for now, is the punter
Hull and Patrick Fish were expected to both punt in the game, but Hull went the distance. He punted six times for 234 yards, an average of 39.0 yards per punt.