Statistically, Stephen Garcia had another great night, completing 31-of-39 passes for 355 yards, two touchdowns, and on interception. However, he just didn't seem to look as sharp as he has since the Auburn loss. When he missed he missed bad. He threw into triple coverage twice - with Tori Gurley making an unbelievable catch on one of them - and his interception was into double-coverage. There was also one play in the first half where he did a pump-fake to Ace Sanders that the defender bit on. That left Sanders wide open over the top, but for some reason Garcia chose not to throw it and just ran out of bounds for a 1-yard loss.
He did make some good decisions. On the first touchdown pass, the play was designed to be a fade to Alshon Jeffery. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, everyone in the stadium knew that was coming and Vandy had safety help over the top. Garcia did a good job of checking off Jeffery - something that he would not do in the past - and found an open Gurley coming across the middle of the field. Also, his touchdown pass to Jeffery was a beautiful touch-pass on a play where he would have just ran it for five or six yards in the past.
Stephen took what the defense gave him with the receiver screens and that helped him pad his stats.
Grade - A-
Kenny Miles got the start at running back in place of injured starter Marcus Lattimore. The Gamecocks did everything they could to get Miles going, but it just didn't happen. It appeared to be a combination of Miles not being able to break tackles and missing a few holes. Though everyone was hoping Miles would have a breakout game - including Spurrier - it just didn't happen with his 11-carry, 25-yard performance.
Enter Brian Maddox. All Maddox did was carry the ball a career-high 24 times for a career-high 146 yards and a touchdown. Maddox appeared to be able to do what Miles was unable to do, break some tackles and find some creases. Maddox broke off a big 38-yard run that had the Gamecocks in position to put the game away, but the blocked field goal was the result of that drive that had so much promise.
Grade - A+
For the first time this season, no running back caught a pass. Most of that was due to the Gamecocks keeping the back in the backfield to pick up the blitz that was constantly coming from Vanderbilt. All 31 Garcia completions were to six different receivers for 355 yards and two touchdowns. Jason Barnes caught back-to-back passes (only had one all season coming into the game), and Lamar Scruggs caught his second pass in as many weeks.
The guys who stole the show were Gurley and Jeffery. The duo combined for 22 catches and 267 yards and two touchdowns. Gurley set career-highs in both receptions and yards, and Jeffery topped 100 yards for the fifth time in seven games this season.
Grade - A+
This one is a little tough for me to grade this week. They struggled early picking up the Vandy blitzes and opening holes for Miles. The Gamecocks only had 10 rushing yards on 20 carries and all four sacks were in the first half. T.J. Johnson continues to struggle a bit with the snaps.
However, you have to give Coach Elliott and the line credit in the second half. They made the adjustments and didn't give up a sack in the second half, though they were helped out with the many receiver screens that were thrown. They wore down the Vandy defense and allowed Maddox to run for 123 yards in the second half.
Grade - B-
The defensive line played well all night. Devin Taylor had two sacks and the line had four tackles for loss total. Even on the two option plays that picked up big yardage for Vandy, the ends did their job and made Larry Smith pitch the ball. They did a good job keeping Smith in the pocket, but Smith was still able to get away and pick up some yardage on the ground.
Grade - B+
The linebackers did a lot better protecting the middle and dropping back into coverage than they did last week. When Smith broke through the front four the linebackers did a nice job wrapping up and making the tackle. They were without Rodney Paulk for the first half, but Josh Dickerson filled in well with six tackles.
Grade - B
Vandy is certainly not the epitome of a passing team. The secondary did what defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward and assistant head coach Ellis Johnson said last week in practice. They played a lot more man and played a lot tighter in coverage. They had a blown coverage as they have all season that led to the Commodore touchdown, but they held Smith to 142 passing yards on 13-of-31 passing. More importantly, they shut the Commodores out in the second half.
Grade - A-
Both kick return teams were horrible. Ace Sanders had three punt returns for -4 yards and Bryce Sherman only got 13 yards on one return. Jay Wooten did get one touchback and Spencer Lanning had a 42.1 yard ount average and pinned Vandy inside their 20 twice. Lanning's first field goal attempt since the Furman game was blocked. Overall, another bad night for the special teams.
Grade - D-
Offensively, the Gamecocks struggled in the first half. They got a big touchdown right before the half and in the second half the Gamecocks started piling up the yardage despite only getting two touchdowns. The Gamecocks finished with 484 yards of offense and ran 84 plays.
Defensively, the Gamecocks were much improved from last week. They gave up some yardage in the first half and a Vandy touchdown, but they shut the Commodores down in the second half with only 70 yards of offense and three first downs.
The coaching staff made the right adjustments and put the players in a position to make plays. The players responded by making the plays which makes the coaches look like geniuses.
Grade - A
It wasn't pretty, but it was a win. The Gamecocks made the plays when they needed to and ended up snapping the 7-game SEC road losing streak.
Grade - B+
Earning the Grade: Vanderbilt
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