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Special teams flaw makes a return

Vanderbilt's Warren Norman eludes two Gamecocks en route to a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown during the second quarter of Saturday’s game.
Vanderbilt's Warren Norman eludes two Gamecocks en route to a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown during the second quarter of Saturday’s game.

Vanderbilt's best player Saturday was its kick returner. Its second-best player was probably the punter.

Luckily for South Carolina, it got just enough help from its own punter to avoid the upset. But once again, special teams loomed large for USC, and the unit's coach, Shane Beamer, has work to do this week.

The Gamecocks yielded a kickoff return for a touchdown for the second time this season when Vanderbilt's Warren Norman raced 99 yards in the second quarter.

Earlier this season, Georgia's Brandon Boykin returned a kickoff 100 yards.

In each case, the return allowed the opponent to tie the game after USC had scored the game's first touchdown. This time, however, the Gamecocks won.

Still, it stuck in coach Steve Spurrier's craw.

"I told somebody, I don't think we've run one back since I've been here, and we've had two run back against us this year. And that shouldn't happen," Spurrier said. "We gotta get better on that."

That will be the Beamer's task. He made one move at halftime Saturday, having Spencer Lanning replace Adam Yates on kickoffs.

Spurrier also would like to see his coverage unit play smarter.

"Sometimes they wanna get him on the 15-yard line instead of, 'Hey, the 25 to 30 is OK, as long as he doesn't go the whole way.' So yeah, we need to work on that," Spurrier said.

The good news for South Carolina was Lanning had a good game punting -- although not quite as good as his Vanderbilt counterpart.

Twice, Brett Upson's punts were downed at the 1-yard line.

But when USC had a similar chance in the third quarter, with a Lanning punt dribbling near the end zone, the result was a touchback.

Lanning came through with 6:26 remaining by pinning Vanderbilt at its 3 with a punt that went out of bounds.

Lanning and Upson each punted eight times. Lanning averaged 42.3 yards, Upson 48.

Vanderbilt did come up short on special teams one time, and it loomed large; kicker Ryan Fowler missed a 25-yard field goal in the first quarter.

He hit a 21-yarder in the third quarter, but had he made the first one, Vanderbilt would have only needed a field goal on its final drive.

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