South Carolina players welcomed their return to the practice field Monday night so they can start to put the memory of Saturday night’s agonizing defeat to Kentucky behind them.
The second-half collapse, when the Wildcats scored 21 unanswered points to pull out a 31-28 victory, was as disappointing as the win over Alabana was exhilarating.
“You could tell the mentality of some of the players, especially the defense, that we want to get better this week,” defensive end Devin Taylor said. “We just don’t want to settle for being average. We want to get better as the weeks go along.”
The team, however, is still feeling the sting of the loss, which dropped it from No. 10 to No. 19 in the Top 25.
“You can only do what you’re capable of doing, but it was frustrating to see our defense struggling like that,” senior defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye said.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said the team worked specifically on making the adjustments necessary to fix Saturday’s problem areas, which included an inability to slow Kentucky’s passing game.
“We’re trying to get better at pass defense,” Ward said.
The Gamecocks entered the game as road favorites at Commonwealth Stadium, but they could not make an 18-point halftime lead stand up.
“I was surprised, but at the same time, we’ve got respect for our opponents,” Ajiboye said. “We train not to be surprised in the SEC because anything can happen. It happened, so it’s all done now. It’s in the past. We’ve got to keep moving forward.”
Safety DeVonte Holloman believes the players can’t afford to let up no matter what the score is.
“We can’t get lax after the first half,” Holloman said. “We’ve got to come out in the second half just like we come out in the first half and execute like we did. We’ve got to execute our game plan, and we didn’t do that in the second half.”
Defensive line coach Brad Lawing said it didn’t matter that the defense made plays on first and second downs because it was unable to do the same on third and fourth downs.
“You’ve got to finish everything off. It’s about going out there and winning the ballgame, and we didn’t win,” Lawing said.
This week’s goal is a simple one.
“Making ourselves better and getting ready for Vanderbilt,” he added. “You practice, and hopefully, you improve from week to week.”
Less of Lattimore
Tailback Marcus Lattimore didn’t dress out for Monday’s practice due to the ankle injury he suffered early in the second half against Kentucky. He was wearing an ankle brace on his left leg when he walked into practice.
Coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday that he didn’t expect Lattimore to be ready for the Vandy game. Lattimore had piled up 204 rushing and receiving yards and three touchdowns in a sensational first half against the Wildcats.
Next to noon showdown
USC’s Oct. 30 game against Tennessee at Williams-Brice Stadium will kick off at 12:21 p.m, it was announced Monday. It will be televised on the SEC Network. .
Heading to Nashville
The meeting with Vanderbilt will be the 20th in the series, which dates back to 1961. USC leads 15-4, which includes an 8-2 mark in Nashville. The Gamecocks won last season’s game 14-10 after losing the previous two games to the Commodores.
Moving up the charts
Junior quarterback Stephen Garcia became just the sixth player in USC history to surpass 5,000 career passing yards with a personal single-game best of 382 yards against Kentucky. His 5,020 yards leave him trailing only Todd Ellis, Steve Taneyhill, Blake Mitchell, Anthony Wright and Phil Petty.
... The Gamecocks now have a seven-game losing streak in SEC road games that dates back to 2008.
Alshon Jeffery leads the SEC and is third in the nation with 115 receiving yards per game. The sophomore has 40 catches for 690 yards this season.
Spurrier owns a 15-2 career mark against Vanderbilt.
First-year Vanderbilt head coach Robbie Caldwell is a Pageland, S.C., native that played his collegiate football at Furman.