Analyzing The Vanderbilt Game

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier handed out quite a few game balls to his team after Saturday afternoon's 31-13 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores. Well, I was in Nashville, and I'd like to recognize a few players with game balls as well.

Game balls:

Sidney Rice – DUH! Rice not only had seven catches for 89 yards and a touchdown, but he also forced the defense to completely zone in on him. This opened up a lot of running room for Cory Boyd and Mike Davis. Rice had two unbelievable catches and frustrated the Vanderbilt DB's throughout the game.

Jasper Brinkley – I still cringe when I picture that hit he put on Vandy QB Chris Nickson. Seven tackles, three for a loss, and two pass breakups seemed like only half of what he did. He was everywhere Saturday, and he was THE difference maker on defense.

Captain Munnerlyn – Yes, he had the first pick of his career, but did you know that multiple times, he lined up one-on-one against Earl Bennett? Munnerlyn held his own against Bennett, who is one one of the premier receivers in the SEC, and forced Nickson to look elsewhere.

Lemuel Jeanpierre – His numbers on the stat sheet may not impress you. However, I can't count the number of times he got into the backfield and forced the Vandy runners to bounce outside. His tackle for a loss, by the way, was made while on the ground after beating the center.

Ryan Succop – Yes, his punt was terrible, but he more than made amends with a 55 yard field goal! Believe me when I tell you he would have made it from 65. He'll easily be kicking in the NFL one day.

I will also grade each position, so you can get a sense of how everyone did for those that couldn't see the game.

Quarterback: C+ - Newton only had 133 yards in the air and seemed to struggle early on. He had a crucial fumble and an interception, which led to 10 of Vanderbilt's 13 points. However, he got the ball to Rice and threw his best pass of the year on a 23-yard post route to Kenny McKinley. He ran pretty well, but still needs to be more consistent. Don't get me wrong, he's outstanding, but he can still get much better.

Running Backs: A - Boyd ran very hard and even had a touchdown called back on a bogus holding call. Mike Davis also ran extremely well, and his touchdown run reminded me exactly of his diving score against Florida last season. The attempts distribution was perfect in my opinion, and these guys carried the team while Newton struggled early on. Boyd, who recorded his second consecutive game with over 100 yards rushing, continues to battle for all SEC honors, in my opinion.

Wide Receivers: B - Rice gets an A, and McKinley was solid as well, but no one else got open. Plus three holding penalties were called against receivers, all of which took away big plays. This group, as a whole, can play better, but you can't go wrong when Rice leads the way.

Offensive Line: D+ - Besides Jamon Meredith and Chris White, this group was terrible. Newton ran for his life all day, and his fumble was from a hit from the back side. Giving up only one sack doesn't show how much this group struggled. When Justin Sorenson entered the game in the second half at right tackle, I held my breath for every play. Besides one really obvious holding call, Sorenson held his own. However with Tennessee coming up, a performance like this will result in a "L."

Defensive Line: B+ - As a whole, this unit was able to apply pressure on Nickson all day long. The ends forced Nickson to run between the tackles and not get outside where he is most dangerous, except once... the TD run to end the half. Six tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, and two sacks by this unit disrupted Niickson's flow all day, and yes, Eric Norwood was fantastic... AGAIN!

Linebackers: Jasper Brinkley gets an A+ Read the game ball piece. The rest of the group graded out with a C. Marvin Sapp and Rodney Paulk did some good things, but at times seemed out of position. There was room to run on the outside and the Gamecock linebackers just aren't consistent enough on stopping the run or covering the flats. There seemed to be no presence from this group all day.

Defensive Backs: A - Chris Hampton and Emanuel Cook had six tackles apiece, and many of them were not after an eight to 10 yard gain. Carlos Thomas and Munnerlyn each had a very nice interception, and those two along with Fred Bennett all did a great job executing the game plan against Earl Bennett.

The team played very well and the score could have been a lot worse. The guys are starting to play like a Spurrier coached team. They don't panic when bad things happen and the offense seems to play faster. With that said, they'll still need a lot more this weekend when Rockytop comes to town.

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