Starting the drive at its own one-yard-line for the second time on the night, South Carolina wasted little time in getting the ball out of the shadow of its own goal post. On the first play of the drive, Garcia took his drop and lofted a pass down the sideline to his left and redshirt freshman receiver Tori Gurley hauled it in for a 43-yard gain. Garcia then fired a screen pass to the other side of the field that Jeffery took 23 yards, thanks to an excellent kick-out block, putting the Gamecocks in excellent shape with a first down at the Vanderbilt 33-yard line.
But the once-promising drive seemed to stall when a one-yard run followed up by two negative plays put the Gamecocks in a third-and-20 at the Vanderbilt 43. That's when South Carolina called time out to set up the game-winning play. If there was any black magic left in that '84 team, now was the time for it to show.
Garcia dropped back and fired a strike to Jeffery who ran a post route into a small window in the zone. Jeffery made the catch, brushed off two defenders, and strolled into the end zone for the eventual game-winner. Garcia called Jeffery one of the best receivers in the SEC. Jeffery called Garcia's throw perfect. Head football coach Steve Spurrier seemed to agree with both.
"That was one of the best plays we've had all year," Spurrier said. "That was Stephen's best throw right there, because he was not that open. He hit him on a dead run sort of crossing across the middle a little diagonal. That was a play we actually put in this week just to see if we could hit something over that left hash, and Stephen hit him perfectly on a third and long."
"I've never had one quite like that," Spurrier said.
"It was an unusual game, yeah, it really was. We were very fortunate. I believe the Lord was smiling on the Gamecocks tonight."
Despite the gaudy yardage numbers, it was the Carolina defense that had to step up time after time. Following the touchdown, an inspired Gamecock defense forced two three-and-outs, before the Commodores eventually took over at their own 35 with one last chance to win the game.
The Commodores were able to pick up three first downs as they drove to the Carolina 25, before the Gamecocks took a timeout to regroup. The defense then stood strong giving up just two yards on the next two plays before coach of the defense Ellis Johnson brought a blitzer off each edge forcing quarterback Larry Smith to desperately fling the ball to the Vanderbilt sideline as Chris Culliver brought him to the ground. Intentional grounding was called and the Gamecocks' held Smith to a meaningless eight-yard run turning the ball over on downs.
"That's something we preach about—finishing in big games," defensive end Cliff Matthews said about the defense making another late-game stand. "It's especially important when it comes down to the wire like it did tonight. Whatever it takes for us to win, we'll do."
Matthews was all over the field and finished the game with eight tackles and a sack, while sophomore linebacker Shaq Wilson led the team in tackles with 12.
Thanks to two other red zone stands the defense held the Commodores out of the end zone, as the only Vanderbilt touchdown came on a kickoff.
The Gamecocks racked up plenty of yardage in the first half as well more than doubling Vanderbilt's output with 239 yards, yet could only muster seven points.
South Carolina and Vanderbilt traded punts to start the game. South Carolina avoided disaster early when what looked to be a Kenny Miles fumble deep in Carolina territory was reviewed and overturned.
It was Vanderbilt who still threatened first, but a Smith pass went off the hands of Brandon Barden in the corner of the end zone before kicker Ryan Fowler missed a short field goal that shot wide right into the Gamecock student section.
Two drives later the Gamecocks used just four plays to notch the first points of the game after starting near midfield. Garcia fired deep down field to redshirt freshman receiver D.L. Moore, who bobbled it twice and eventually reeled it in for the first touchdown pass of his career. The 35-yard strike put the Gamecocks up 7-0 with 7:52 to go in the second quarter.
But Vanderbilt would waste no time in striking back as Warren Norman returned his second kickoff back for a touchdown this season, this one from 99 yards to tie the game at 7. Neither team would threaten again in the quarter as they went into halftime with the score still tied.
The Commodores played field position ball to notch their first points of the second half. The Gamecocks were forced to play conservatively after the Commodores punted on their first drive of the half, downing Carolina inside their own one yard line. A 7-play, 39-yard Commodore drive stalled inside the five, before Barden hit a 21-yard field goal to give them a 10-7 lead with 8:55 to go in the third quarter.
Each team would trade field position twice, before the start of the fourth quarter, and the Gamecocks' 99-yard game-winning drive.
"This win is huge. We're 6-2 now," Garcia said. "We had a chance to be undefeated if we'd played better, but we're only going to get better. The future is really bright for us. As our team grows and our confidence grows, I think we'll take more chances."
- Despite Akeem Auguste, who was the punt returner for the first four games of the season returning from suspension, Stephon Gilmore kept his punt return job. Gilmore returned two for 32 yards including a 19-yarder.
- Cliff Matthews went down with a neck stinger in the fourth quarter, while boundary safety DeVonte Holloman suffered a right shoulder contusion. Neither is considered serious.
- Even though, Steve Spurrier notched his 105th conference victory as an SEC head coach, tying him with Vince Dooley for third all-time in league history, he said he was more happy about the fact the Gamecocks had won a school-record five straight games against SEC opponents at home. The Gamecocks have also won seven straight games at home dating back to the win over Tennessee last year.