NOTEBOOK: And Then There Were Three

Following Saturday's games, the race for the SEC East shrank from five teams to three teams. With South Carolina's 21-7 win over Vanderbilt, the Gamecock offense made school history and broke several career-high marks.

Five teams entered play Saturday afternoon or evening with a legitimate shot of winning the SEC East; South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and Vandy. With Georgia being in Lexington, KY to face the Wildcats, one would be eliminated from contention. If Vandy were to beat South Carolina, there would still be four in contention though South Carolina would have been in some trouble. With Georgia's 44-31 win over Kentucky and South Carolina's 21-7 win over Vandy, there are now only three teams remaining with a legitimate chance of winning the East. South Carolina leads the pack with a 3-2 SEC record, Georgia is a half game behind at 3-3, and idle Florida fell a full game behind at 2-3.

South Carolina

It's not surprising to see South Carolina at 3-2 in the SEC. With games at home against Georgia and Bama and a road game with Auburn, most Gamecock fans would not be all that surprised that Carolina might have lost two of those three. However, how the Gamecocks got to 3-2 is quite puzzling. After a 17-6 win over Georgia to open up SEC play, the Gamecocks headed down to the Plains to face Cameron Newton and the Auburn Tigers. As has been the case with every team the undefeated Tigers have played, the Gamecocks could not stop Newton as the Tigers picked up a 35-27 win.

After a bye week, #1 Alabama rolled into Columbia. Even those that thought the Gamecocks could win did not expect to see what happened. The Gamecocks all but dominated the Crimson Tide in a 35-21 upset. What happened the following week left Gamecock fans everywhere wondering what happened to the team that beat Alabama.

After racing out to a 28-10 halftime lead at Kentucky, the Gamecock offense could not move the ball after Marcus Lattimore went out with a sprained ankle and the Gamecock defense could not get off the field as the Wildcats came storming back for a 31-28 upset.

Thanks to the SEC East being what it is this season, the Gamecocks took a trip to Nashville still in first place in the East and they stayed there after a 21-7 win without the services of Lattimore.

The Gamecocks will play three huge conference games in the next few weeks. The Gamecocks host Tennessee and Arkansas the next two weeks before going to The Swamp to close out SEC play in what could be a battle for the Eastern Division crown. The Gamecocks control their own destiny and will clinch the East should they win all three games, regardless of what Georgia or Florida may do.

Georgia

Who thought the Bulldogs would be in the battle for the East three weeks ago? The Dawgs had just suffered an embarrassing 29-27 loss to Colorado and sat at 1-4 overall and had lost their first three conference games. The Dawgs have found their offense the last three games, scoring 40+ in wins over Tennessee, Vandy, and Kentucky.

The Bulldogs are the only one of the three that does not hold its own fate. Due to its loss to South Carolina, in order for Georgia to win the East they would have to win its two remaining games against Florida and at Auburn and South Carolina would have to lose two of its final three conference games.

Florida

Who thought the Gators would be sitting under .500 in the SEC heading into the final weekend in October? The Gators managed to beat Tennessee and Kentucky in its first two conference games, but have since dropped three straight to Alabama, LSU, and Mississippi State. That has raised many questions in Gainesville heading into their bye week. However, despite the 2-3 start the Gators still controls its own destiny. Should the Gators beat Georgia, Vandy, and South Carolina the Gators will head to Atlanta yet again.

Bold Prediction

A hot Georgia football team that has seemed to finally find its offense will roll into Jacksonville next week and pull off a rare victory over the Gators. The Gamecocks will continue their hot play at home, knocking off both Tennessee and Arkansas. The win over Arkansas will set off a wild celebration inside Williams-Brice Stadium and later on in 5-Points as the Gamecocks win the SEC East before making the trip to Gainesville.

If the Gamecocks fail to win the SEC East, they will certainly look back to its losses to Auburn and Kentucky, blowing fourth-quarter leads in each game.

Notebook

Landmark Win

Steve Spurrier notched his 40th win at South Carolina, becoming just the fourth coach to reach that mark. Paul Dietzel is third with 42 wins, Jim Carlen is second with 45 wins, and Rex Enright has the most wins in school history with 64.

Spurrier is now 40-30 at South Carolina and 182-70-2 in his legendary career. Spurrier is 16-2 all-time against Vandy, 4-2 while at South Carolina.

Finally!

The Gamecocks finally snapped its SEC road losing streak with the win over Vandy. The Gamecocks had lost 7 straight, dating back to a 24-17 win over Kentucky on October 11, 2008.

Unfamiliar Territory

As the first quarter came to a close, Gamecock fans saw something unusual on the scoreboard. The "0" on the scoreboard for points was the first time this season the Gamecocks failed to score in the opening stanza.

"We didn't play very smart at times," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said. "Vandy plays us tough all the time."

The Gamecocks have outscored its opponents 100-38 in the first quarter this season.

Leading at Crunch Time

Any player and coach will tell you that the fourth quarter is always crunch time. Despite two losses, the Gamecocks have yet to trail entering the fourth quarter this season. The Gamecocks led 14-7 over Vandy heading into the fourth quarter.

"We have not played the second half well in our road losses," Spurrier said. "We actually won the second half tonight."

Where's Everybody At?

The announced attendance of 33,425 was the smallest crowd for a South Carolina game in 10 years, 2 days. A total of 33,369 witnessed the October 21st, 2000 game against Vandy.

Offensive

Record Night

Saturday night saw one school record and several career highs. The Gamecocks had a 100-yard rusher and two 100-yard receivers for the first time in school history. Brian Maddox rushed for 146 yards, Alshon Jeffery had 158 yards receiving, and Tori Gurley had 109 yard receiving. The trio had each of Carolina's three touchdowns.

Maddox had a career-high in both carries (24) and yards (146). His previous high for carries was 23 against NC State in 2009, and his high for rushing yards was 82 against Florida in 2009.

"He (Maddox) did excellent," Spurrier said. "When Brian got his chance, he was making things happen."

Gurley also posted career-highs in receptions and yards. His 13 receptions ranks him third in school history for receptions in a game behind Zola Davis and Kenny McKinley, who each had 14. His previous career high was four catches, which he reached six times. His 109 yards surpassed his previous high of 100 against Florida Atlantic in 2009.

"We have multiple guys that can get the job done and tonight was just my night," Gurley said. "I grabbed the opportunity by the horns and didn't let it go.

"Coach Spurrier and (Spurrier) Junior and the coordinators did a great job of reading Vandy's defenses," Gurley continued. "They put everybody in position to make plays and tonight I was just the guy with the high hat."

Jeffery's 158 yards moves him into 10th all-time with 1,608 yards, passing Ira Hillary's 1,566.

Quarterback Stephen Garcia tied a career-high with 31 completions for 355 yards and two touchdowns. Garcia now has 5,375 passing yards for his career, which is just outside the top five.

Miscellaneous

- Marcus Lattimore did not play for the first time in his brief collegiate career, nursing a sprained ankle suffered in last week's loss to Kentucky.

- South Carolina is 32-8 under Spurrier when rushing for 100+ yards.

- South Carolina threw for 355 yards, the fourth-highest under Spurrier.

- The Gamecocks had 484 offensive yards, a season high.

Defense

Finish the Job

The South Carolina defense was able to do what it could not do in last week's loss to Kentucky - shut down the Vandy offense in the second half. Vandy only had 70 total yards in the second half, tying for the second-fewest under Spurrier for a half.

"Our defense played outstanding tonight;" Spurrier said. "It was a wonderful night for the defense."

Vandy did not cross mid-field in the second half until the final offensive play of the night for the Commodores, which resulted in a turnover on downs at the Gamecock 48-yard line.

"Don't Say Nothing"

Defensive end Devin Taylor, nicknamed "Don't Say Nothing" by Cliff Matthews for Taylor's quietness, was in the Vandy backfield all night. Taylor finished with two sacks and three tackles for loss.

Can We Get a Turnover?

The Gamecocks have struggled getting turnovers the last two years. The Gamecocks have not forced a turnover since Greg McElroy's fumble three games ago. The Gamecocks had two opportunities against Vandy. Late in the first half, Vandy fumbled an exchange on an attempted handoff. Three Gamecocks were right there - including defensive tackle Travian Robertson - but none of them were able to get it.

"When it fell I tried to reach for it then it bounced off someone else's foot and I didn't see it anymore," Robertson said. "I should have gotten it."

On Vanderbilt's final offensive play, quarterback Larry Smith appeared to fumble it with Akeem Auguste recovering it. However, for some reason, the booth decided on a review and it was overturned. The result of the play was a turnover on downs for the Commodores as Smith was well short of the first down marker.

Special Teams

Ace Makes Debut

Freshman Ace Sanders returned punts for the first time in his young career. It was not a good night, as Sanders was credited with 3 returns for -4 yards.

Lanning Gets Plenty of Work

Spencer Lanning punted seven times - a season-high - for a 42.1-yard average with a long of 48 yards and pinning Vandy inside their 20 twice. Lanning had one called back on an illegal formation that was downed inside the 5-yard line.

Lanning also attempted his first field goal in four games (Furman), but the 26-yard attempt was blocked.

Up Next

The Gamecocks return home after two road games to take on Tennessee at 12:00 on October 30th.

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