Report Card: Vanderbilt vs. South Carolina

The game is over now: South Carolina 14, Vanderbilt 10.'s armchair quarterback analyzes every element of the Commodores' performance and assigns a grade to each area.



South Carolina

It looked good early. Larry Smith had several short completions in a row. The overall results were the same. Smith finished with 132 yards passing but he just can't seem to lead the team to scores in the red zone. On the last drive he seemed lost once he got into the red zone. He threw an attempt on third down that was an obvious intentional grounding penalty. Then on fourth down and 32, when almost any quarterback knows he has to heave one to the end zone and take a hit for the team, he runs out of bounds after an 8-yard gain without even being touched by an opposing player. Smith still rarely puts any touch on the ball when he throws it. He fires a bullet whether or not it's a four-yard pass or a 40-yard pass. On the one play that he put some touch of the ball he completed of 42-yard pass to Brandon Barden. Barden also dropped a touchdown catch.
Vanderbilt probably should have ran more in this game. Warren Norman is a play maker and is the only player in VU history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in a season. Yet he only carried the ball 14 times against South Carolina. A player of his caliber should get at least 20 carries a game, especially when the passing offense is struggling. Larry Smith also had some decent runs.
This could have been an 'A' or 'B' grade had it not been for South Carolina's first drive of the fourth quarter. Vandy had them backed up on their own one but then gave up two 43-yard passes and a 23-yarder to give the Gamecocks the lead and game. Stephen Garcia completed 22-of-33 passes for 312 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Pretty good here. Kenny Miles had almost all of the Gamecocks' rushing yardage finishing with 102 yards. The team combined had only 119 yards. This was a good showing for a VU team that has progressively gotten worse as the season has gone on in defending the run. The Commodores did seem to give up more rushing yardage in the second half but again they are on the field too much because of a struggling offense.
Great work on special teams, especially punting. Brett Upson finished with a 48-yard punting average. He had one that went 64 yards and two of his punts were downed on the South Carolina 1-yard-line and another on the 5. Of course Warren Norman had that beautiful 99-yard kickoff return that tied the score at 7. Norman is the first VU player to ever return two kickoffs for touchdowns in season. It may be hard for him to get another because opposing staffs likely won't want to kick it to him. Ryan Fowler made a 21-yard field goal in the third quarter to put Vandy on top, 10-7 but he also missed a 25-yarder which could have helped gain Vanderbilt the win. He's got to make those short field goals 90 percent of the time.
The offense continues to fail to get the job done, but you could tell the staff is trying. There were several new plays installed including a shuffle pass that didn't work well. One consideration to make is that the injuries this year have been much worse than we've seen a long, long time. The big question is why are we downing the ball near mid field with 16 seconds remaining in the half and three timeouts left? Yeah, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction but you only get so many opportunities. Why not hand it off to Warren Norman and see what he can do? Great job by the defensive staff in helping the team stay in the game. They almost pulled out a win despite the lack, again, of an offensive touchdown. Hats off also to Des Kitchings and Rick Logo who coach the special teams.
Missed opportunities cost Vanderbilt their first SEC win of the season. It was there for the taking and the team just didn't get it done. Now they've got to quickly put this one behind them because a very well coached Georgia Tech team is coming to Nashville, hungry to put a whipping on an SEC school.

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