Vanderbilt Game Review

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This is the first in my upcoming series of posts where I plan to review South Carolina's games against its SEC foes and Clemson.

I'll cover each team's expected points and review the Gamecocks top and bottom five plays on offense and defense. I calculate expected points by reviewing the play by play data and comparing the outcome of each play to how many points it is historically worth. For example a one yard touchdown run is important, but not worth six points. The plays that got the team to the one yard line are more critical.

Looking at the numbers and the situation, many things went wrong for the Gamecocks but they still managed to pull out the win. Vanderbilt actually fumbled three times but never lost one. In fact, they ended up with four out of the five total fumbles, only failing to recover the one when Shaw botched a shotgun snap before picking the ball up for a positive gain. Forcing fumbles is a skill, but recovering them is random, and South Carolina came up with the short end of the stick this game.

As everyone knows, the Gamecocks passing game was dreadful due to some bad reads by Shaw before he injured his shoulder and due to Dylan Thompson not being ready for SEC play. The Gamecocks performance was so bad that they would have been better off just running the ball on every play which is pretty much what happened when Shaw returned, except for the one long pass to Cunningham.

The expected points for each team follows in the table below. The Gamecocks had an okay day running the ball and really shut down the Vanderbilt running game.



Special Teams

Total Points

South Carolina










The next table shows the average points gained per play. For example, a team loses roughly 0.4 points off of their expected points on the drive when they thrown an incomplete pass on first down at their own 20 yardline. As you already know, it was a bad day for the offenses. As an interesting side note, the expected point differential also ended up right at the Vegas line.



Special Teams

Average points gained per play

South Carolina










For reference, South Carolina averaged -0.07 points per pass play last year after adjusting for defences. Vanderbilt will probably have an above average secondary this year, but nothing close to justifying what we saw from the Gamecocks in this game.

Top five plays on offense

1st and 10 at VAN 29

Marcus Lattimore rush for 29 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.

South Carolina lines up two WRs wide left and Connor Shaw takes a snap in the shotgun. Vanderbilt's defense is shaded to the left to guard against the threat of a quick play to the WRs lined out wide. Shaw runs a zone-read option and hands it to Lattimore. The offensive line opens up a huge hole to the right. The RG is able to get to the second level and take out the middle linebacker. Lattimore outruns the SS who has to pursue from the left and jukes the FS to finish off the play for a touchdown.

1st and 10 at VAN 49

Connor Shaw rush for 20 yards to the Vandy 29 for a 1ST down.

This is the play right before Lattimore's touchdown. Again it is a zone-read option. Shaw takes the snap, reads the RDE crashing inside to stop Lattimore, and keeps the ball. He runs through the huge hole on the left side of the line left by the vacating RDE.

Both this play and the following touchdown run are great examples of Shaw and Lattimore executing the zone-read at its finest.

2nd and 8 at SCAR 47

Connor Shaw pass complete to Justice Cunningham for 20 yards to the Vandy 18, VANDERBILT penalty 15 yard Personal Foul on Andre Hal accepted for a 1ST down.

The Gamecocks line up with "12" personnel and block with five linemen on this critical passing play. The line gives Shaw a clean pocket to step up in and deliver a pass to Cunningham. Shaw actually finds Cunningham late which opens Cunningham up to the vicious hit by Hal. The result was a positive one in this instance but against Georgia this is an incompletion or possible interception.

2nd and 8 at SCAR 27

Marcus Lattimore rush for 23 yards to the 50 yard line for a 1ST down.

The Gamecocks line up two WR wide but this time Vanderbilt keeps its defense in the middle of the field. The LDE stays outside to guard against Shaw so Lattimore gets the ball. This run is all on Marcus. One of the OLBs actually has a chance to tackle Lattimore for no gain but is juked before Lattimore races around the RCB to get to the outside for a nice gain.

I recommend watching this one again if you get a chance.

2nd and 6 at VAN 13

Connor Shaw rush for 12 yards to the Vandy 1 for a 1ST down.

Everyone will remember this play, which was a designed QB run. Gamecocks line up with 4 WRs and Lattimore in the backfield. C T.J. Johnson and Lattimore both slip out and block LBs with Lattimore's effort being especially good. Shaw runs through the hole and almost scores a touchdown.

Bottom five plays on offense

2nd and 7 at SCAR 19

Connor Shaw pass intercepted by Kenny Ladler at the SCaro 38, returned for 17 yards to the SCaro 21.

Gamecocks line up with 4 on this play. Shaw goes playaction off of the zone-read and the pass blocking is good. Cunningham is actually wide open in the right flat but Shaw elects to go deep to D.L. Moore. The decision isn't terrible, but Shaw does not throw it accurately and the pass is intercepted.

1st and 10 at SCAR 44

Marcus Lattimore rush for no gain, fumbled, forced by Karl Butler, recovered by Vandy Karl Butler at the SCaro 44.

The Gamecocks open the game with 4 WR and Lattimore in the backfield with Shaw. On the zone-read play, Shaw reads the RDE correctly and hands off to Lattimore. I think there is miscommunication with the blocking scheme. The RG lets his assignment go into the backfield and plans to block a LB. LT Shell tries to dive back and block the free rusher but can't in time. Lattimore is hit in the backfield and fumbles.

3rd and 10 at SCAR 25

Dylan Thompson sacked by Chase Garnham for a loss of 12 yards to the SCaro 13.

Vanderbilt rushes five defenders on this play where South Carolina has a screen pass set up. Ellington lines up in the backfield and runs a swing route while Lattimore goes up the middle to wait the screen. Thompson needs to recognize that he needs to get the ball out soon because the pressure will come quickly on a screen pass but doesn't and is sacked. The line is not at fault here.

2nd and 1 at SCAR 29

Dylan Thompson sacked by Walker May for a loss of 8 yards to the SCaro 21.

Thompson lines up under center and the RBs are in an offset I. Brandon Shell whiffs on his block when the DE speed rushes around him. Thompson doesn't have a chance is does well to hold on to the ball here.

3rd and 11 at VAN 41

Connor Shaw pass incomplete to Ace Sanders.

Shaw lines up in the shotgun with 3 WR to the left. Vanderbilt runs a stunt and gets pressure up the middle. Shaw scrambles to the left and makes a great play to find Ace Sanders. However, Sanders traps the ball against the ground and the pass is incomplete.

This is an important negative play because event a few yards puts the Gamecocks in position to go for it on fourth down or attempt a FG.

Top five plays on defense

3rd and Goal at SCAR 5

Jordan Rodgers pass intercepted by Shaq Wilson at the SCaro 14, returned for 37 yards to the Vandy 49.

On this big play on the goal line, Rodgers rolls to the right and attempts a throwback screen to a WR on the left. This play is designed to take advantage of over-aggressiveness by the defense. However, Shaq Wilson stays on his assignment, gets around a bad block by the WR setting up the screen and picks off the pass.

This play bodes well for the future of the defense. One of my worries was that Lorenzo Ward's defense would be too aggressive and blow coverages, but they did a great job on this play.

1st and 15 at SCAR 46

Jordan Rodgers rush for a loss of 7 yards, fumbled, recovered by Vandy Jordan Rodgers at the Vandy 47.

Jordan Rodgers tries to run playaction off of a zone-read option but fumbles the ball when he pulls it back. Rodgers is lucky to fall on the ball and recover it.

1st and 10 at VAN 49

Jordan Rodgers rush for a loss of 4 yards, fumbled, recovered by Vandy Jordan Rodgers at the Vandy 45.

Jordan Rodgers fumbles the ball on a fake shotgun sweep to the RB but is lucky to fall on it and recover.

3rd and 10 at SCAR 44

Jordan Rodgers sacked by Jadeveon Clowney for a loss of 9 yards to the Vandy 47.

Gamecocks run a zone blitz on this play with a LB, Shaw Wilson, blitzing up the middle and Clowney stunting to the inside. Devin Taylor goes wide into the flat, presumably covering the hole left by the blitzing LB. It's a nice play call because it puts extra pressure on the middle of the line and leaves the LT blocking no one. Wilson misses the sack, which he needs to make in the future, but Clowney cleans up the play when Rodgers scrambles away.

It's a nice play call to get pressure without sacrificing coverage too much. I'd love to see more of this in the future.

3rd and 5 at SCAR 43

Jordan Rodgers sacked by Kelcy Quarles for a loss of 7 yards to the 50 yard line.

Vanderbilt lines up with 4 WRs and no tight ends. Both Clowney and Taylor speed rush around the outside, and Taylor almost registers the sack. Rodgers escapes by stepping up but Quarles is the key here since he gets a good push up the middle and is rewarded with a sack.

USC's talent advantage is on display here and Vanderbilt didn't leave any TEs in to help disrupt the rush and the RB decided to go up the middle for a pass instead of chipping one of the rushers. I expect future teams to keep TEs in or chip with RBs, otherwise you'll see a lot of plays like this where Clowney and Taylor get a to attack the tackles one on one.

Bottom five plays on defense

2nd and 12 at VAN 22

Jordan Rodgers pass complete to Jordan Matthews for 78 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.

Vanderbilt runs playaction off of a zone-read look to draw South Carolina's LBs up and create a hole for Jordan Matthews in the defense. This is okay and would be a 15-20 yard play except Brison Williams gets caught between trying to make a tackle or make an interception and ends up totally misses the tackle.

It's a critical play since Vanderbilt showed almost zero ability to sustain a drive during the game, and probably doesn't score on this drive without the missed tackle. 10 of their 13 points mainly came off of two plays, this one and the following play. That's all I'll say on this one since it's been discussed at length after the game.

1st and 10 at SCAR 46

Jordan Rodgers pass complete to Josh Grady for 32 yards to the SCaro 14 for a 1ST down.

South Carolina has good coverage on this play and forces Rodgers to scramble to the outside before he launches a duck over the middle. Somehow, USC doesn't intercept it and Vanderbilt gets a huge gain. Watching it live I was sure it would be intercepted and possibly returned for a touchdown but a LB (Shaq Wilson?) jumps at the ball and misses it.

3rd and 7 at VAN 40

Jordan Rodgers pass complete to Jordan Matthews for 22 yards to the SCaro 38 for a 1ST down.

The Gamecock defense doesn't appear ready at the snap here and Rodgers hits Matthews on a quick hitch and Matthews runs down the sideline for 20+ yards before being tackled.

1st and 10 at SCAR 21

Jordan Rodgers pass complete to Wesley Tate for 17 yards to the SCaro 4 for a 1ST down.

The Gamecocks bring five rushers on this play and Shaq Wilson probably shows his hand too early here. Rodgers has an easy pass to the flat to find Tate in the area Wilson would be covering. Luckily for SC, Wilson bails the team out three plays later with a great interception.

1st and 10 at VAN 37

Jordan Rodgers pass complete to Jordan Matthews for 22 yards to the SCaro 41 for a 1ST down.

Jordan Matthews lines up in the slot and Damario Jeffrey is the LB responsible for taking away the middle of the field. Vanderbilt runs playaction off of the zone-read on this play which freezes Jeffrey for just an instance before he drops back. This is enough time for Matthews to get behind Jeffrey and make the catch past a diving Jeffrey. It's a well designed play and in the future Jeffrey will need to read the situation and focus more on the receiver when he is a threat like Matthews.

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