Grading the keys to victory: Vanderbilt
I. Contain the Spread Option Offense
The South Carolina defense played their hearts out Saturday, and despite being put in precarious situations most of the first half, they did not give up a point after surrendering 17 in the first quarter. While Vanderbilt quarterback Mackenzi Adams did rush for 84 yards on the day, the defense did a good job of containing him most of the time. Junior Jeff Jennings started at tailback for the first time since the Alabama game for the Commodores and added another 28 yards on the ground to Vandy's total.
The defense came up big time after time and gave the offense multiple chances to win the game. The story of the day was obviously the lack of offense as the defense played well enough to win.
II. Slow Down Earl Bennett
Wide receiver Earl Bennett entered the game just three receptions short of the SEC all-time record of 208. After a two catch, 24 yard performance Bennett left Williams-Brice Stadium still a catch short of the record. Bennett also added three rushes for 10 yards. Bennett is a great player, but he was held in check by the Gamecock defense.
III. Play Four Quarters of Offense
The Gamecocks did not play one quarter of offense, much less an entire four quarters. While the offense did have its share of big plays and was even able to string together a few nice drives, nearly all of them were negated by a penalty, sack, or turnover. The offense could not find a rhythm with Blake Mitchell or Chris Smelley running the show, and the third down conversion rate was horrendous for the second week in a row (1 of 12). We also mentioned prior to the game that the offense would need to stay balanced, something it was not able to do as they were playing from behind all day. They have not scored a touchdown in six consecutive quarters, and the two field goal performance was the first time they had been held out of the end zone since the Georgia game a season ago.
IV. Develop Continuity on the Offensive Line
There was no magical personnel change this year to spark the offensive line play like there was last year against Vanderbilt when Justin Sorenson was inserted into the lineup at right tackle. The line had arguably its worst performance of the Steve Spurrier era and looked completely inept at times. The inability to stay focused as well as pick up the blitz led to five false starts and seven sacks. The seven sack total tied a Vanderbilt school record. The South Carolina coaches will accept physical mistakes from time to time, because they are a part of the game, but the mental errors the line made Saturday will not be tolerated by this staff.
V. Put Them Away
South Carolina was down from the beginning and was down 17-0 before the first quarter was over. They never led, so there was never a chance to even think of putting Vanderbilt away or winning big.
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