A look at how our five gameday storylines played out on the field.
On solid footing?
Marcus Lattimore indeed looked good, gaining 110 yards on 23 carries. He fumbled on his first carry of the game, admitting after the game that he was “really, really nervous” knowing he was about to get hit for the first time since returning from an ACL tear. “That is over with now,” he said. The biggest positive for Lattimore, and the Gamecocks, is that he once again ruled the fourth quarter, gaining 44 yards.
The pass rush
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Five Gamecocks had sacks. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had four tackles, including one sack and two tackles for loss. However, most of Clowney’s damage came early. The Commdores slid their protection toward Clowney as the game progressed and neutralized him, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. Ward was true to his word that he was going to be aggressive. Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles had eight tackles and a sack.
Circle the wagons
Vanderbilt got exactly what it wanted. Marcus Lattimore fumbled on his first carry. Connor Shaw threw an interception on the third play of the game. And, still the Commodores couldn’t pull off the upset. Vanderbilt wasted both of those turnovers and fell behind 10-0. “We had some good fortune,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “Vandy didn’t have much good fortune. They played us toe to toe, no about it.”
South Carolina knew it was going to be putting pressure on a mostly inexperienced secondary, and the defensive backs cracked on a couple occasions. Vanderbilt’s first touchdown, a 78-yard catch by Jordan Matthews, came when safety Brison Williams whiffed on a tackle in the open field. Safety D.J. Swearinger also gave up a long completion to Matthews on a mistimed jump but redeemed himself on Vanderbilt’s final offensive play of the night, when he broke up a long pass intended for Matthews.
The Gamecocks continued an impressive run of Thursday night openers. Spurrier is 6-0 on Thursday nights to open the season since coming to South Carolina. He is 23-1 all-time in season-opening games and improved to 18-2 all-time against Vanderbilt.