We’re not spilling state secrets here to suggest that Vanderbilt might want to prepare to defend a few wide receiver screens the next time it faces South Carolina.
Man, does Steve Spurrier love to screen the Commodores. A review of the film by The State from Saturday’s 35-25 win against Vanderbilt at Williams-Brice Stadium showed that the No. 12 Gamecocks ran nine wide receiver screens for 78 yards against the Commodores.
Tori Gurley, now a wide receiver with the Cleveland Browns, could have told the Commodores this was coming. Gurley caught a career-high 14 passes for 112 yards against Vanderbilt in 2010 and almost every one was a screen.
Saturday’s game looked a lot like that. It wasn’t until South Carolina’s 67th offensive snap that Vanderbilt jumped the wide receiver screen, forcing Shaw to tuck the ball and run for a short gain.
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Add the wide receiver screens to the 133 yards Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds gained on screens and swing passes, and the vast majority of the Gamecocks 359 passing yards came after the catch.
The tape also revealed
• A big reason all of South Carolina’s short passes worked was excellent blocking by the wide receivers.
• When the Gamecocks weren’t screening the Commodores into submission, they relied a lot on that old Vanderbilt nemesis, the zone read. The Commodores have had trouble defending running quarterbacks for two seasons now, and Connor Shaw gained 84 yards on 19 carries. Dylan Thompson added 23 yards on three carries.
• It looks like South Carolina’s zone read could return to its 2010 effectiveness this year due to Mike Davis. Having a potentially dominant back (like 2010 Marcus Lattimore) forces defense to crash the back and leave a lane for the quarterback. The Commodores overplayed USC’s running backs almost every time.
• When Shaw did look downfield, he made beautiful throws on a 12-yard touchdown to Nick Jones and a 26-yard touchdown to Bruce Ellington. The receiver ran the same route both times (although from different sides of the field) — a skinny post that fooled no one. Jones was surrounded by three defensive backs and Ellington was bracketed by two, and Shaw made super throws.
• If you think USC has problems at linebacker, you’d hate to be a Vanderbilt fan. The Commodores’ linebackers consistently failed to get to the Gamecocks running backs and tight ends on short routes out of the backfield.
Jadeveon Clowney had a Clowney-like play with his sack and forced fumble against Austyn Carta-Samuels, but his explosion throughout the game still is not Clowney-like.
• The Commodores tried the toss sweeps Georgia used so effectively against South Carolina, but they did not have the personnel to get to the edge like the Bulldogs did.
• After a shotgun formation option was stopped on fourth-and-goal last week against Georgia, the Gamecocks were faced with six short yardage situations against the Commodores. All six times, they went under center.
• South Carolina’s defense will see more Wildcat quarterback running plays. Vanderbilt began to disguise the play better in the second half and ran 10 Wildcat rushes for 79 yards after halftime. Three times, the Commodores gained 14 or more yards on the play.