Five game balls
1. Shaq Wilson
Shaq Wilson had a remarkable game and made one of the biggest plays when he intercepted Jordan Rodgers on a third-and-five and returned it 37 yards. That proved to potentially be a 14-point swing as Carolina scored two plays later. For the game Wilson tied for the team lead in tackles with eight and one interception.
2. Kelcy Quarles
Kelcy Quarles enjoyed a solid day as well. Quarles tied with Wilson for the team lead in tackles with eight and also had one sack. As was Wilson's interception, the sack by Quarles came at a key spot. After Carolina took a 17-13 lead, Andre Hall returned the kick into Gamecocks territory. On third-and-five Quarles broke through and slung Rodgers to the ground to end the drive.
3. Connor Shaw
Statistically it was nowhere near Shaw's best game. Shaw did have a great game on the ground with 92 rushing yards, but was just 7-of-11 for 67 yards and was intercepted on his first pass attempt of the game. It was what he did after suffering a shoulder injury late in the second quarter. Dylan Thompson came in and the Gamecock offense did absolutely nothing. In eight plays with Thompson in at quarterback, Carolina had -4 total yards. Shaw came back in with Vandy up 13-10 and on the second drive back led the Gamecocks to the game-winning touchdown.
4. Jimmy Legree
A lot of eyes were on junior Jimmy Legree Thursday night. Legree started the first two games last season, but struggled at the safety position. Back at his comfortable position at corner, Legree had a very solid game against Vanderbilt. Legree finished third on the team with seven tackles, including one in the backfield. Legree also broke up a pass and made life difficult for Vanderbilt receivers all night. If Legree continues to play like he did Thursday, Carolina will be feeling good about their cornerback positions.
Player of the game – Marcus Lattimore
Marcus Lattimore returned to the game of football for the first time in ten months Thursday night. He got off to a nightmare start, fumbling his first carry of the game. It was all good after that. Despite an offensive line that struggled most of the night, Lattimore looked like the Heisman candidate he was before the injury. Often times shedding tackles in the backfield, Lattimore ran the ball 23 times for 110 yards and both touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 21 yards. Whether or not Lattimore was completely 100% may not be known, but he was certainly close.
Plays of the game
5. Lattimore scores from 29 yards out
Shortly after coming up with a huge turnover, Lattimore got his second carry of the game. After fumbling his first running opportunity, Lattimore found a seam up the middle, avoiding a tackle from the Vanderbilt safety and took it into the end zone to give Carolina a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
4. Cunningham's big catch
Early in the fourth quarter Carolina had a second-and-seven from the Vandy 48. Shaw rolled to his left and delivered a pass headed for tight end Justice Cunningham. As the ball was being pulled in by Cunningham, Andre Hal delivered a devastating blow to Cunningham that sent his helmet flying. Somehow Cunningham was able to hold on to the ball despite the big hit. 15 yards was tacked on for the high hit from Hal, setting the Gamecocks up with a first down at the Vandy 17.
3. Shaw's draw
Following the completion to Cunningham, Carolina was penalized for a false start. Shaw hit Lattimore over the middle for nine yards, setting up a second-and-six from the Vandy 13. Hurt shoulder and all, Steve Spurrier called for a draw. Shaw dropped back and then took off up the middle, getting a huge block from Lattimore. Shaw dove for the end zone on the hurt shoulder and came up just shy of the end zone. Two plays later Lattimore punched it in for the game-winner.
2. Shaq's catch
I predicted a key play by Shaq Thursday night, but had the wrong Shaq in mind. It wasn't Shaq Roland that had the huge catch, but Shaq Wilson. It was early in the game, but ended up being one of the biggest of the game. Shortly after Shaw was picked off, Vandy had a third-and-goal and the Carolina five yard line. Rodgers rolled to the right as Vandy set up a screen on the other side of the field. They forgot to block Wilson as he outjumped Zac Stacy to intercept the ball and then return it 37 yards to the Vandy 49.
Play of the game
1. Shaw gives up body for first down
Thursday night was all about Shaw's gutty performance. Despite the shoulder injury Shaw made two huge third-down conversions with his legs. Shaw converted a second-and-11 with a scramble play, getting upended and coming down flat on his back. Though Carolina wasn't able to run out the clock they were able to run more time off the clock and force Vanderbilt to go for it on fourth down on their final drive instead of punting it away.
To top it off, on the next drive Shaw carried it again on a third-and-five, gaining seven yards to get the first down. From there Carolina lined up in the victory formation to run out the clock and end the game.
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