For 30 minutes Saturday night, South Carolina looked completely healed.
The No. 13 Gamecocks, coming off a disheartening loss to Georgia a week ago, dominated Vanderbilt in the first half on the way to a 28-10 lead. The large cushion allowed them to survive a sloppy second half and escape with a 35-25 victory over the Commodores.
“It was a good win for us. We are happy,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “We’re not moping around. Sometimes crap happens and you lose games like that. We did a lot of good things. We don’t need to be mad. We got a little careless, but that’s the way it happened.”
A Williams-Brice Stadium crowd of 81,371, many of whom had gone home before the game got tight at the end, watched as South Carolina won its 13th straight home game, the second-longest streak in the nation. The Gamecocks now have two weeks off before traveling to Orlando, Fla., where they will face 3-0 UCF on Sept. 28. The Knights beat Penn State 34-31 on Saturday.
“I wouldn’t mind maybe playing Austin Peay this week,” Spurrier said. “You laugh about that, but sometimes when you play a team like that everybody gets to play, everybody feels pretty good, you sort of get to regroup. We have had three (games against major conference opponents) in a row now.”
South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC) dominated Saturday’s game statistically, outgaining Vanderbilt 579 yards to 268 yards and rolling up 31 first downs. Quarterback Connor Shaw was 21-of-29 passing for 284 yards and three touchdowns and also the game’s leading rusher with 19 carries for 84 yards.
The yardage total was the second-most by the Gamecocks since 1995, trailing the 639 gained against Kentucky in 2011. The 31 first downs were the second highest of Spurrier’s tenure, trailing the 32 they had against the Wildcats in 2011.
The Gamecocks led 35-10 after Brandon Wilds scored on a 33-yard pass from Shaw with 10:22 left in the third quarter. Things got dicey from there, though.
Vanderbilt scored two touchdowns in the span of 13 seconds early in the fourth quarter and closed the gap to 35-25 on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Austyn Carta-Samuels to Wesley Tate and a two-point conversion with 13:59 left in the game. That touchdown was set up when Shon Carson fumbled the kickoff on Vanderbilt’s previous possession. South Carolina then turned the ball over again when T.J. Gurley was hit by a rolling punt, and Vanderbilt recovered at South Carolina’s 37-yard line.
“Obviously, we had some careless plays,” Spurrier said. “I told (special teams coach Joe) Robinson, ‘We have to get you some better players out there.’ I don’t know what we are doing.”
The Commodores moved to the 5-yard line before Jimmy Legree intercepted a pass at the goal line to stop the bleeding with 8:41 left in the game.
Spurrier improved to 19-2 all-time against Vanderbilt. In the previous six games, South Carolina had averaged 16 points against the Commodores and hadn’t scored more than 21. The Gamecocks surpassed that in the first 20 minutes Saturday, scoring touchdowns on each of their first four possessions and taking a 28-0 lead on a 26-yard scoring pass from Shaw to Bruce Ellington with 10:03 remaining in the second quarter.
“It was a game that I was thinking this might be the best we’ve ever looked on offense since I have been here, it was the first half anyway,” Spurrier said. “Then it started slowing down a little bit.”
The Commodores’ four scoring drives averaged 28.75 yards.
“We played better,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “We tried to go back to one-on-one football and try to keep it simple.”
USC: Jones 12 pass from Shaw (Fry kick), 10:50.
USC: Davis 4 run (Fry kick), 4:43.
USC: Thompson 3 run (Fry kick), :32.
USC: Ellington 26 pass from Shaw (Fry kick), 10:03.
Vanderbilt: Seymour 1 run (Spear kick), 3:38.
Vanderbilt: FG Spear 54, :00.
USC: Wilds 33 pass from Shaw (Fry kick), 10:22.
Vanderbilt: Carta-Samuels 1 run (Spear kick), 14:12.
Vanderbilt: Tate 19 pass from Carta-Samuels (Scheu pass from Carta-Samuels), 13:59.
|Time of Possession||22:50||37:10|
RUSHING: Vanderbilt, Tate 10-71, Seymour 6-39, Kimbrow 5-16, Carta-Samuels 12-(minus 5). South Carolina, Shaw 19-84, Davis 17-77, Wilds 10-36, Thompson 3-23.
PASSING: Vanderbilt, Carta-Samuels 12-22-1-147. South Carolina, Shaw 21-29-0-284, Thompson 7-9-1-75.
RECEIVING: Vanderbilt, Matthews 8-106, Tate 1-19, Krause 1-10, Kentera 1-7, Seymour 1-5. South Carolina, Ellington 8-111, Wilds 5-65, Davis 3-67, Roland 3-38, Anderson 3-30, Adams 2-16, Byrd 1-12, Jones 1-12, K.Smith 1-9, Thompson 1-(minus 1).