Nik's Commodore Keys: South Carolina

After a heartbreaking loss to 24th ranked Georgia last week, Vanderbilt (3-3 1-3 SEC) will look to rebound on the road against the SEC East leader, South Carolina. The Commodores need three more wins to become bowl eligible, and one of those must be an SEC win. What will the Dores have to do this week to beat Carolina (6-1 3-1 SEC)?

Quarterback

      The major point for Vanderbilt should be getting the quarterback situation figured out to have a solid starter against the Gamecocks. Mackenzie Adams is completing 58% of his passes for 257 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. He replaced a struggling Chris Nickson for good in the second half of the Georgia game. Adams must be accurate in the pocket, like he was for much of the Georgia game. Vanderbilt can not afford to have a poor passing game as well as a poor running game against the powerful SEC East. Vandy must be able to throw better than they have earlier this year. Also, Earl Bennett must get more catches. In the games that Vandy has lost, Bennett has not made as many catches as he averages, and Vandy must give him at least 7-10 receptions if they want to beat South Carolina. This should be the major point in practice this week, and we will see if Johnson and Company can come up with an answer at quarterback.

Penalties

      Although Vanderbilt has been good on penalties over the past couple of years, they must cut down the dumb penalties. In the fourth quarter, Vandy had a 30+ yard pass called back because they had too many people on the line of scrimmage. This penalty was called twice against the Dores, and they must refrain from getting these penalties to beat a very good South Carolina team on the road. In order for Vanderbilt to upset Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks, the Commodores must play an absolutely mistake free game, which includes limiting penalties, turnovers, sacks, and other busted plays.

Special Teams

      With the Vanderbilt offense struggling at times, Special Teams must come up huge against the Gamecocks. DJ Moore has done an excellent job at returning kickoffs this year, and Alex Washington has returned punts very well. Vanderbilt will need to put the offense in good field position in order to win this game. The return game will be important, but so will the kicking game. Vandy will need to back up South Carolina as much as they can. Chris Smelly, who has thrown four interceptions this year, will need to be challenged. Brent Upson must continue his strong punting game, like he did against Georgia, when he hit a couple of 50+ yard punts. Bryant Hahnfeldt has steadied his kicking game, as he has connected on 8 of 11 field goals this season. Vandy will need a consistent game from both Upson and Hahnfeldt to beat the sixth ranked Gamecocks.


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Run Defense

      Once again, the Commodore defensive line will be key this week. South Carolina has rushed for 896 yards this season. Cory Boyd leads all tailbacks with 482 yards and four touchdowns. He has a 4.7 yard per carry average. Steven Stone and Curtis Gatewood have stepped up to bottle up the run. Theo Horrocks will need a good game as well. Jonathan Goff will need to continue his ruthless tackling against Carolina. Vanderbilt must also worry about Mike Davis (411 yards, 5 TD, 4.9 YPC).

Last Meeting: South Carolina 31 Vanderbilt 13 (2006 in Nashville)


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