Vanderbilt Report Card: South Carolina
Passing offense B
The highlight of the night was when Jordan Rodgers and Jordan Matthews hooked up on a 78 yard slant route to pull the score within three for the 'Dores at 7-10. The Vanderbilt offensive line allowed five sacks on quarterback Jordan Rodgers, who was unable to get away from Gamecock defenders.
Jordan Matthews picked up right where he left off a year ago with eight catches for 147 yards and a touchdown. Rodgers was 13-of-23 for 214 yards, a TD, and an interception. On the drive following the 78-yard touchdown, Vanderbilt opened the series with a 32-yard completion to redshirt freshman Josh Grady.
The 'Dores may have been able to take better advantage of a young pair of South Carolina corners but the Vandy passing game may be the most promising part of the offense. The offense improved drastically under Franklin in 2011. When the passing game starts to fully click this season it could be quite a show.
Rushing offense D
Vanderbilt was held to just 62 rushing yards on 36 attempts. Zac Stacy led the 'Dores running effort with 57 yards on 13 carries but was replaced by Wesley Tate for part of the game due to what appeared to be a leg cramps. Tate ran well backing Stacy up with 17 yards on seven carries and a 17-yard reception.
Jordan Rodgers made three big plays and converted two first downs on his feet but was sacked five times to bring his net into the negative.
Vandy's offensive line did better than many expected against the highly ranked set of defensive ends. The Commodores broke four rushes of 10 yards or more. Former SEC Freshman of the Year Warren Norman did not see the field as some had hoped; instead Wesley Tate got the majority of carries behind Stacy.
Passing defense B-
The Commodores collected three sacks and battered Gamecock starting quarterback Connor Shaw, holding him to seven completions for 67 yards and an interception. Kenny Ladler was the player of the day in the secondary with nine tackles (eight solo), a tackle for loss, a pass break up, two passes deflected, and an interception returned for 17 yards.
South Carolina played three quarterbacks who combined for 7-of-11 with Shaw being the only Gamecock to complete a pass. Cornerback Andre Hal was penalized for a hit on South Carolina receiver Justice Cunningham who held on to put the Gamecocks on the 18 yard line.
Lattimore was the South Carolina leading receiver with three catches for 21 yards. Connor Shaw completed a total of four passes to players other than Lattimore -- Gamecock receiver Ace Sanders had two catches for 13 yards.
Rushing defense D
Linebacker Chase Garnham had nine tackles, a tackle for loss, and a sack for 12 yards. Junior outside linebacker Karl Butler ended the night with five tackles, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Vandy seemed to keep Marcus Lattimore in check for the first three quarters of the game but were unable to stop the Gamecocks from burning the clock late in the game. The Commodores ended the day with seven tackles for loss but allowed Lattimore to run for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Despite sending Gamecock quarterback Connor Shaw to the locker room for a few series midgame he was still able to escape the pocket, running for 92 yards on 14 attempts.
Special teams A
Carey Spear made a 25-yard field goal in the second quarter to tie the game at 10-10. Over halfway through the third, Spear connected on a 44-yarder to put the 'Dores up 13-10. The junior kicker's lone miss of the night came with 1:04 to go in the third quarter from a distance of 51 yards. South Carolina responded to the miss by marching 65 yards for a Lattimore touchdown that put the score at 17-13 for the Gamecocks.
Two plays after Andre Hal's fumble while returning a kickoff the Commodores connected on their only touchdown of the night. Hal later returned a kickoff 52 yards in the fourth quarter, but the 'Dores were forced to punt after going three and out.
Vanderbilt punter Richard Kent had four punts and spotted two of those inside the twenty -- averaging 43.5 yard per punt. The 'Dores averaged 35 yards per kick return and 15 yards per punt return.
After the missed 51-yard field goal attempt, the Vandy defense seemed to have lost steam and South Carolina marched half way across the field to take a 17-13 lead. The play calling leaned toward the run game and seemed to get vanilla when South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw was out and the 'Dores had a 13-10 lead.
With the South Carolina defense sucking wind at the end of the first half the 'Dores were unable to capitalize. Late in the game with a small lead and Conner Shaw out with an injury, the Vandy play calling seemed very conservative with multiple runs up the gut against the touted Gamecock defense.
True freshman running back Brian Kimbrow had two carries straight up the middle; though he gained just five yards on two carries, his incredible speed was evident as it took him no time to reach the line of scrimmage after hand offs. Getting Kimbrow situations to use his speed on the outside seems like it should be an advantage and a priority.
Vanderbilt had the lead going into the fourth quarter with a defense that kept South Carolina from gaining the large advantage some expected. The Vanderbilt offense looks great behind Jordan Matthews and will be something to see when the 'Dores face an opponent without the talent South Carolina possesses. There were some expected early season mistakes and growing pains, but if this team improves anything like last year's -- then the late game stretch including Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Ole Miss will be fun to watch.
Vanderbilt had five costly penalties for 35 yards that stalled critical drives and helped the South Carolina offense. The 'Dores did not get any assistance from the refs late on their last play of their last offensive drive when safety D.J. Swearinger pulled Matthew's left arm moments before the ball arrived and no flag was thrown. The no call ended any chances the 'Dores had at storming back to take the lead. The Vandy offense put together some nice drives but were unable to convert on multiple occasions due to turnovers, mental mistakes, and multiple three-and-outs in the second half.
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