Vanderbilt-South Carolina, As It Happened
12:31 left, first quarter: That's a high-level play from Alshon Jeffery; hard to be terribly critical of anything Vanderbilt did in that sequence of plays.
11:03: Airtight defense – that's the level of play in the secondary which has made Vanderbilt such an effective, formidable, ball-hawking defense through three games. Filling the fuel tank with confidence in the early stages of this contest is essential.
7:18: I can certainly believe that Steve Spurrier would go for it – it's as though the parade of straight-ahead running plays was setting up the decision to roll the dice on fourth down. Each and every time, Vandy's defense was up to the challenge. The Dores' manhood was tested, and every black-helmeted defender rose to the occasion. Outstanding!
6:46: That… was not outstanding.
3:58:Seeing South Carolina earn a victory… that's fine. Seeing South Carolina getting bailed out by penalties… not fine.
3:09: Casey Hayward, playmaker. He's in Stephen Garcia's kitchen, but beyond that, the VU secondary is in the kitchen of every opposing quarterback. The longer you can demonstrate excellence, the more your prowess can't be doubted or written off as a fluke. The Dores are continuing to prove themselves in September.
0:19: That underneath route to Marcus Lattimore is something Vandy's linebackers will have to deal with over the next three quarters.
End of First Quarter: Vanderbilt 3, South Carolina 0. Field goals with short fields won't get the job done tonight, but Vanderbilt's defense will if it can keep this up.
13:30 left, second quarter: Three – three – THREE INTERCEPTIONS! HA, HA, HA! The Count from Sesame Street would be loving the course of this game. Every Vandy fan is, too.
11:59: It shouldn't be too much to ask, Commodores: If you do commit a turnover, throw a long pass that gets picked deep in Carolina territory – you know, an "arm-punt." Don't let turnovers become seven cheap points for the Gamecocks. Martin Luther said, "If you're going to sin, sin boldly." The football scriptures say, "If you're going to turn the ball over, turn it over wisely."
9:05: I love the decision by James Franklin to go for it, but the play call was risky with the early pitch putting the ballcarrier several yards behind the line of scrimmage while also eliminating the guesswork for the defense. However, Vandy guessed right in terms of catching Carolina with few defenders to the short side of the field. Great execution, too. That's a big-boy call that previous coaches probably would not have made (probably).
7:09: You know, guys, merely avoiding massive losses of yards would make more field goals possible. With South Carolina playing as poorly as it is on offense, a 9-7 win isn't out of the question. Just avoid the hugely negative plays, will ya? That's not asking too much. Vandy doesn't have to accumulate many positive plays; just weed out the gaffes and goof-ups.
5:10: Seeing Carolina lose 13 yards in three plainly pathetic plays, one can only reaffirm what's been said above: The Gamecocks are going to find it hard to score, despite their weapons. Every offensive player with a dark red shirt is stinking up the joint, with the slight exception of Mr. Lattimore (who did drop a pass in the first quarter, however). If Vanderbilt can avoid giving away free yards on either side of the ball, it can definitely remain in this contest and win it in the fourth quarter.
4:09:PURE UNADULTERATED BALDERDASH! How can that be ANYTHING other than simultaneous possession?! That is simply outrageous. If there is ANY shred of doubt, the benefit of the doubt should go to the offensive team, given that an interception is a game-changing play imbued with a considerable amount of weight. That is ATROCIOUS!
0:46: Well, at least Vandy's offense didn't commit a turnover, and at least the Gamecocks aren't likely to score before halftime.
0:32: With Stephen Garcia running in bounds without a timeout left, Carolina definitely won't score. What a train wreck for him and Spurrier's whole offense.
0:13: OF COURSE THAT HAPPENS. OF COURSE. NATURALLY.
Halftime: South Carolina 14, Vanderbilt 3 The wrenching and supremely frustrating aspect of that screen pass to Lattimore is that it was not well designed. Garcia bailed out and released the ball quickly before all the blockers were properly aligned. Yet, Lattimore, being the great player he is, simply shot like a cannon through a gap in the middle of the field. On one broken play, South Carolina completely transforms the trajectory of this game and leaves the Commodores with nothing to hang their hat on despite 30 near-perfect minutes of defensive football. It's not an exaggeration to say that Vandy's defense has been brilliant except for one play in the first half. All the Dores have to show for it is this lousy T-shirt… and an 11-point deficit. In the second half, it's simple: Any Garcia mistakes have to be returned deep into Carolina territory, if not for touchdowns. Carolina mistakes must be supremely punished, or VU's not going to win… not with an underequipped offense taking on the Gamecocks' physical and deep front seven.
13:47 left, third quarter: I know that giving South Carolina a chance to lose this game with its offense is probably Vandy's best hope at this point. Nevertheless, it's hard to pass up 4th and 1.
11:41: Lattimore makes one of those two-yard, million-dollar NFL runs. Darnit.
9:15: Nice to see Vandy get a call for once, but that interception by Carolina with 4:09 left in the first half casts a longer shadow over the game at this point.
8:20: I guess the football gods are saying that the 3-0 start was enough fun for the month of September, and that the laws of averages had to even out. Good heavens.
7:46: File that touchdown under "Hail Mary-enabled events." This effort tonight from Vanderbilt has been so much better than the scoreboard; the performance from Carolina's offense has been so much worse than the numbers could ever indicate. This is a narrative that's not exactly foreign to Commodores of all ages.
6:06: If there was any hope of getting back in the ballgame, that series of downs didn't participate in the plan. This offense is getting clobbered… as expected, mind you, but that doesn't make the reality more bearable. The final five minutes of the second quarter just looms larger and larger. That's when the worm turned.
2:32: That's not a touchdown. The first foot comes down on the white paint. That's not a terribly difficult call. (Pause for the replay review…) Thank you. Geez. Why did it even take that long?
2:17: Vanderbilt's defense has not been the problem tonight. A gritty stand keeps the score at One Play by Marcus Lattimore 7, One Hail Mary 7, One South Carolina Defensive Touchdown 7, and Vanderbilt 3.
2:07: Jadeveon Clowney joins Melvin Ingram as part of South Carolina's "Front Four Playmaking Club." This game is has fully and officially entered "getting really ugly" territory.
End of third quarter: South Carolina 21, Vanderbilt 3. Alshon Jeffery's catch puts the capper on a miserable third quarter. It's been all Murphy's Law since that simultaneous possession call got bungled by the SEC crew.
14:23 left, fourth quarter: Not much to talk about unless or until something changes.
2:02: As you can see, nothing ever changed. The offense is the long-term project here. The defense can hang with anyone in the SEC, although it would be sorely tested by the power of LSU and the play calling of Arkansas. Still, this is a legitimately good defense. It proved as much tonight, ironically, in a losing cause. The fight was there for Vandy – the ability to minimize negative plays on offense wasn't, and neither was a timely bit of proper officiating late in the first half.
Final score: South Carolina 21, Vanderbilt 3.
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