A short rain delay. A small crowd. A big win.
South Carolina’s game against Vanderbilt on Saturday had a little bit of everything, almost all of it good for the Gamecocks, who won 37-14.
The Gamecocks, who said they were motivated by Commodores head coach Derek Mason predicting the game would be a “street fight,” outgained the Commodores 534 yards to 284 yards in front of 26,078 fans, the smallest crowd to see a South Carolina game since a 1983 game at Duke. After a 39-minute rain delay in the third quarter almost all the fans who remained were Gamecocks fans.
They saw their team beat Vanderbilt for the 10th consecutive time and improved to 2-1 overall and 1- 1 in the SEC. Vanderbilt fell to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the league.
“We dominated at the line of scrimmage,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said. “I liked the mentality of our football team, the way they came out and established the line of scrimmage.”
It marked the first time the Gamecocks have surpassed 500 yards since Nov. 1, 2014 against Tennessee.
“We heard about (Mason’s comments), and yeah we took it personally,” said South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley, who was 19-of-28 for 261 yards, one touchdown and one interception. “He called us out to come fight, and that’s what we did. We can play in the stadium, in a backyard, in the street. We ran for 270 yards so I think the O-linemen took it more personally than anybody else.”
Star of the game: South Carolina junior defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw had a career-high two sacks but his day just started there. Kinlaw also had two forced fumbles, two quarterback hurries, a pass breakup and five tackles. He left the game in the fourth quarter with what looked to be a serious injury but said after the game was not. “I overextended my toe. I’m fine,” he said. “It just scared me because it has been bothering me.”
Play of the game: Kinlaw sacked Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur and forced a fumble that Aaron Sterling recovered and returned to the Commodores 6-yard line to set up a quick touchdown that put the Gamecocks up 30-14 midway through the third quarter.
Stat of the game: South Carolina entered the game 10th in the SEC in turnover margin with two takeaways and two giveaways. The Gamecocks were minus-1 against the Commodores as Jake Bentley threw an interception and running backs Rico Dowdle and A.J. Turner each fumbled. Dowdle and Turner’s turnovers came inside the Commodores’ 30-yard line.
Weather delay: The game was stopped with 3:03 left in third quarter due to lightning in the area. The teams returned to the field 39 minutes later and played the remainder of the game in a steady rain.
Smith’s big day: Sophomore wide receiver Shi Smith had career highs in receptions (five) and yards (119). “We had a really good matchup with Shi in the slot,” Muschamp said. “We felt that way coming into the game.”
Dowdle’s bounce back: Junior running back Rico Dowdle, whose dropped pass turned into a Georgia touchdown the last time South Carolina played, had 20 carries for 112 yards on Saturday. It was his second, 100-yard game of the season. “I had to come get my face back,” he said.
Who: South Carolina at Kentucky
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29
Where: Kroger Field, Lexington, Ky.
TV: SEC Network