South Carolina’s first game without Steve Spurrier at the helm resulted in the Gamecocks first SEC win of the season.
“We are looking at it as we are 1-0,” junior wide receiver Pharoh Cooper said. “It’s a new era so we are just trying to keep winning games from here on out.”
South Carolina (3-4 overall, 1-4 SEC) survived a sometimes sloppy game to beat Commodores 19-10. Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-3) hasn’t won an SEC game since 2013. Five days after learning that Spurrier was resigning immediately, the Gamecocks trailed at halftime but snapped a two-game losing streak by outscoring the Commodores 13-3 in the second half.
Former offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, now the team’s interim head coach, notched the first win of his coaching career. The Gamecocks played in black jersey tops and pants and played AC/DC on the stadium loudspeaker prior to Vanderbilt third downs.
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“I wanted a change,” Elliott said. “I wanted something to make it our own. I couldn’t write a better script to tell you the truth.”
The Gamecocks have an open date next Saturday before returning at action at Texas A&M on Oct. 31.
The Gamecocks were in trouble midway through the third quarter, down 10-6 and facing third-and-5 on their 23-yard line when Perry Orth found a crossing Pharoh Cooper for a 78-yard touchdown that put South Carolina ahead 13-10 with 6:34 left in the third quarter.
The Commodores were attempting a disorganized “mush rush” defensive scheme on the play.
“We had the perfect play call,” Elliott said. “As soon as we called it, I knew what it was going to do.”
Star of the game: Cooper topped 100 yards receiving for the third straight game and the fourth time in SEC play this season. He finished with seven catches for a season-high 160 yards.
Play of the game: Vanderbilt’s best chance at a comeback came midway through the fourth quarter when Perry Orth was intercepted at the Gamecocks 44-yard line, but South Carolina cornerback Chris Lammons got his own interception on the Commodores first play of the ensuing drive.
Stat of the game: The five turnovers gained by South Carolina was its most in a game this year. The Gamecocks forced five fumbles and recovered two of them, and they intercepted Vanderbilt quarterback Johnny McCrary twice.
Slow Starts: South Carolina has trailed at halftime of all six games this season. Junior place-kicker Elliott Fry had a 55-yard field goal attempt as time ran out on the first half Saturday that would have broken the streak, but it missed wide right. The Gamecocks have been outscored 109-58 in the first half this year.
Textbook Targeting: Junior linebacker T.J. Holloman appeared to have no ill will when he tackled Vanderbilt wide receiver Kris Kentera at the Gamecocks’ 7-yard line late in the second quarter, but the front of Holloman’s helmet hit Kentera directly in the side of the helmet as Kentera ducked to avoid contact. Holloman was ejected for targeting and the penalty also turned a fourth down into a first-and-goal for the Commodores, who scored a 4-yard touchdown three plays later.
Fry Guy: Fry will be among the nation’s leaders in field goals makes and field goal attempts when college football’s stats are tabulated Sunday, but he hasn’t been as accurate this season as he his first two years. Fry hit 83.3 percent of his kicks as a freshman, 72 percent last year and has hit 71.4 percent (15-of-21) this year. His misses this season have come from 57, 42, 49, 44, 39 and 55.
Who: South Carolina at Texas A&M
When: Oct. 31 (Time TBA)
Where: Kyle Field; College Station, Texas
HOW THEY SCORED
USC 3, Vanderbilt 0
Scoring play: Elliott Fry 47-yard field goal, 13:21
Drive: 4 plays, -5 yards, 1:02
Key play: Drive is set up when Jonathan Walton forced a fumble that T.J. Holloman scooped up and returned 11 yards to the Commodores 24-yard line.
USC 6, Vanderbilt 0
Scoring play: Fry 31-yard field goal, 6:49
Drive: 11 plays, 74 yards, 3:54
Key play: On third-and-4, Perry Orth connected with Pharoh Cooper for a 24-yard gain to the Vanderbilt 29-yard line.
Vanderbilt 7, USC 6
Scoring play: Caleb Scott 4-yard pass from Johnny McCrary, 2:21
Drive: 14 plays, 79 yards, 6:43
Key play: South Carolina seeming forced Vanderbilt to attempt a field goal but T.J. Holloman is flagged for targeting to give the Commodores an automatic first down at the USC 3.
Vanderbilt 10, USC 6
Scoring play: Tommy Openshaw 23-yard field goal, 8:04
Drive: 10 plays, 73 yards, 5:43
Key play: Facing a third-and-17 from the USC 30, McCrary hits Steven Scheu for a 17-yard yard gain and first down.
USC 13, Vanderbilt 10
Scoring play: Cooper 78 pass from Orth, 6:34
Drive: 3 plays, 83 yards, 1:30
Key play: On the touchdown, Cooper caught the quick slant and broke free from a tackle attempt to race the remainder of the way untouched.
USC 16, Vanderbilt 10
Scoring play: Fry 19-yard field goal, 3:11
Drive: 8 plays, 44 yards, 2:52
Key play: Bryson Allen-Williams sets the drive up when he intercepts a McCrary pass at the Commodores 45-yard line. He tips the ball in the air before corralling it in.
USC 19, Vanderbilt 10
Scoring play: Fry 22-yard field goal 5:27
Drive: 5 plays, 12 yards, 1:10
Key play: Skai Moore intercepts a McCrary pass and returns it to the Vanderbilt 16-yard line.