South Carolina remained unbeaten Saturday with a win that was convincing on the scoreboard and the statistics sheet.
In person, the No. 12 Gamecocks’ 21-3 victory over Vanderbilt was a little harder to embrace.
“It was really a poorly coached offense tonight representing the Gamecocks,” said head coach Steve Spurrier after moving to 4-0 for the first time in his seven years at South Carolina. “I apologize to the Gamecock fans for such a putrid offensive performance, but we won the game.”
That was because of the defense. Vanderbilt gained 77 yards, the second-fewest allowed by South Carolina since at least 1966.
“Vandy is not a great offense, we knew that coming in,” Spurrier said. “But that was a super defensive game no matter who you are playing. They had fun playing football tonight. That was encouraging.”
The defense outscored Vanderbilt (3-1) by itself thanks to defensive lineman Melvin Ingram’s third touchdown of the season, which came when he recovered a fumble in the end zone with 11:59 left in the second quarter to put the Gamecocks ahead 7-3. Ingram finished with three tackles-for-loss, including his first two sacks of the season.
“I told him, ‘You’re going to be a Heisman candidate, aren’t you?’ ” said defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who added two sacks.
South Carolina gave up five first downs and 1.6 yards per play and tallied six sacks.
“When you are getting that kind of pressure on the quarterback, everything feeds off each other,” defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said. “When you are able to get to the quarterback with four people real effectively, it makes calling the game pretty simple.”
The offense needed all the help it could get. Senior quarterback Stephen Garcia threw a career-worst four interceptions and was replaced in the fourth quarter by Connor Shaw. Garcia “probably will” start against Auburn next week, Spurrier said.
“Stephen is actually trying the best he can,” Spurrier said. “That’s all as a coach you can ever ask a person to do.”
A Williams-Brice Stadium crowd of 77,015 booed the home team’s offense several times. The Gamecocks got their first score on a screen pass to Marcus Lattimore that went 52 yards for a touchdown with 13 seconds left in the first half. That pass and a 51-yard completion to Ace Sanders on a ball that was tipped into the air put some perfume on the generally unpleasant odor that surrounded the passing game.
The Sanders completion set up a 22-yard touchdown run from Lattimore that put South Carolina up 21-3 with 7:46 left in the third quarter.
Lattimore finished with 20 carries for 77 yards and three receptions for 73 yards.
“He had 3.8 (yards per carry) with nowhere to go, I mean nowhere to go,” Spurrier said. “They got the best of us up front, I’ll say that. (Offensive line coach Shawn) Elliott I know is a little upset with his o-line. We couldn’t knock them backward a lick.”
Vanderbilt scored its only points of the game on a four-play, 6-yard drive that was set up by one of Casey Hayward’s two first half interceptions, which Hayward returned to the South Carolina 22-yard line. The Commodores ended up with a 33-yard Carey Spear field goal to go ahead 3-0 with 1:43 left in the first quarter.
“We’re 4-0 and we are going to start getting ready for Auburn,” Spurrier said. “We are going to enjoy this victory. We are going to keep our positives up and see if we can’t get our guys to play better. We will regroup, see if we can get some ball plays ready for Auburn. We are winning and not playing at the top of our game. Hopefully, we have a top of our game.”
Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery
Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney
|Score by quarters||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||FINAL|
Vanderbilt: FG Spear 33, 1:43.
USC: Ingram recovered fumble in end zone (Wooten kick), 11:59.
USC: Lattimore 52 pass from Garcia (Wooten kick), :13.
USC: Lattimore 22 run (Wooten kick), 7:46.
|Time of Possession||25:52||34:08|
RUSHING: Vanderbilt, Stacy 7-18, J.Seymour 7-14, Rodgers 1-4, Team 1-(minus 2), Smith 9-(minus 30). South Carolina, Lattimore 20-77, Garcia 7-32, Wilds 3-22, C.Shaw 2-14, E.Baker 3-3, Thompson 1-1, Team 2-(minus 6), Ellington 2-(minus 12).
PASSING: Vanderbilt, Smith 12-16-1-44, Rodgers 4-7-0-29. South Carolina, Garcia 16-30-4-228, C.Shaw 1-2-0-8.
RECEIVING: Vanderbilt, Krause 9-55, Tate 2-8, Stacy 2-(minus 10), Lassing 1-7, J.Seymour 1-7, Matthews 1-6. South Carolina, A. Sanders 4-75, Lattimore 3-73, A. Jeffery 2-34, Anderson 2-21, Wilds 2-7, Ellington 1-8, D. Smith 1-8, Cunningham 1-5, D.L. Moore 1-5.