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'Dores knocked down: USC snaps Vandy skid

USC junior defensive end Clifton Geathers celebrates his sack of Vanderbilt’s Larry Smith in the third quarter, which forced a fourth down and a punt.
USC junior defensive end Clifton Geathers celebrates his sack of Vanderbilt’s Larry Smith in the third quarter, which forced a fourth down and a punt.

South Carolina had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver - yet needed a late defensive stand to hold off Vanderbilt.

But after back-to-back losses to their new SEC East nemesis, the Gamecocks were not going to get too picky about any win against Vandy.

Freshman receiver Alshon Jeffery pulled in a 43-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and the 23rd-ranked Gamecocks defense turned back the Commodores' comeback attempt to take a 14-10 victory Saturday before an announced crowd of 75,624 at Williams-Brice Stadium.

"It was a good win for us. I know it wasn't real pretty. But it was a win over a pretty good, tough Vandy team," USC coach Steve Spurrier said. "They don't give up a whole lot of points. But we're happy to have won."

USC (6-2, 3-2 in SEC) won its seventh consecutive home game and set a school record with its fifth consecutive conference victory at home. The Gamecocks are bowl-eligible for the fifth time in as many seasons under Spurrier.

The win was Spurrier's 105th in SEC play, tying him with Vince Dooley for No. 3 all-time on the conference list. But the Head Ball Coach said he was more satisfied with the record-setting streak at home.

"I like that one better," he said. "Hopefully that other part will keep adding up as we go."

Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia threw for 312 yards on 22-of-33 passing, while Jeffery set career highs with seven catches for 161 receiving yards and a touchdown on eight catches. Tailback Kenny Miles added 102 rushing yards on 18 carries.

The last time USC had a 300-yard passer, 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver was in a losing effort. Quarterback Anthony Wright, tailback Duce Staley and receiver Marcus Robinson - all of whom played in the NFL - pulled the trick in a 14-10 loss to Mississippi State in 1996.

Vandy (2-6, 0-5) did not go quietly, driving inside the Gamecocks' 25-yard line with two minutes remaining.

With the Commodores facing third-and-8 from the 23, USC safety Chris Culliver rushed quarterback Larry Smith into an intentional grounding that cost the Commodores 24 yards after the spot penalty.

On fourth-and-long, Eric Norwood and Clifton Geathers chased Smith out of the pocket and forced him out of bounds well short of the first down.

Jeffery provided the winning margin on the strike from Garcia to complete a 99-yard scoring drive at the start of the fourth quarter.

Facing a third-and-20 after a holding call and a sack, the Gamecocks spread the field and sent Jeffery on a crossing route. USC put the play in this week and had run it in the first half, but Garcia and Jeffery could not connect.

"The first time I was wide open, and I just dropped it," Jeffery said. "The second time I was wide open again, and he just threw a perfect ball. Once I caught it, I knew I was going to score."

The Gamecocks looked buried as the fourth quarter started. Trailing 10-7, USC started a drive at its 1-yard line for the second time in the half after Vandy punter Brett Upson again pinned the Gamecocks deep.

After USC was conservative on its earlier drive from the 1, the Gamecocks came out firing. Throwing from his end zone, Garcia went down the left sideline for Tori Gurley, who made a one-handed grab for a 43-yard gain.

Spurrier said the play was called with Jeffery in mind, but Gurley was in the game in his spot. In either case, Garcia was excited to hear the more daring play call.

"It was a great call and Tori made an excellent catch," Garcia said. "That's just something we need to do. I think as our team grows and our confidence grows, I think we're going to take a lot more chances."

Vandy defensive end Broderick Stewart said the Commodores liked their chances when USC began the final quarter in the shadow of its end zone. Garcia was 3-for-3 for 109 yards on the go-ahead drive.

"We can't give up the big play," Stewart said. "We had them pinned and where we wanted them."

The Gamecocks outgained Vandy 431-273 in total yardage despite running one fewer offensive play. Both teams punted eight times in a turnover-free game.

"Vandy plays us tough," Spurrier said. "We've got to find a way to score more points against them sometime soon."

"They're a very disciplined team. They fight very hard to the very end," Garcia added. "We knew it was going to be a dogfight. But a win's a win. We'll take it no matter what."

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