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South Carolina Gamecocks at Vanderbilt Commodores: Offense sharp, defense and special teams not so much in ugly win

Gamecocks have plenty of room for improvement after ugly win.

Frederick Breedon

The Vandy game was a mixed bag for Carolina. The biggest problem for Carolina was special teams, which gave up two kickoff returns for touchdowns, both returned by the same player. Special teams otherwise played fairly well, with Tyler Hull punting the ball effectively, Elliott Fry hitting both of his field goal attempts, and Carolina recovering a fumbled kickoff late in the game. However, any time you give up 14 points on returned kicks, you've got a problem. In a  post-game interview, Steve Spurrier expressed his disgust with these miscues, stating that he was embarrassed by the way his team played tonight.

Defensively, Carolina didn't fare much better. Vandy had 379 yards in the game, which doesn't look terrible for Carolina on the face of it, but that number doesn't tell the whole story. First of all, because the Gamecocks allowed the two kickoff returns for touchdowns, Vandy had two less offensive possessions than it would have had otherwise. Moreover, coming into the game, Vandy had played as poorly on offense as any team in the nation. This was an opportunity for Carolina's defense to dominate a lesser opponent. Instead, the 'Dores had frequent success on offense, moving the ball effectively on the ground throughout the contest and taking advantage of frequent coverage breakdowns to gain yards through the air. It's safe to say that Carolina's defense remains a work in process, which is worrisome with Missouri coming to Columbia next week. Even though the Tigers lost to Indiana today, they remain a team that should be able to move the ball on Carolina's defense.

Fortunately, Carolina's offense was good enough once again to overcome poor plays in other areas of the game. The two players who really stood out on offense were Dylan Thompson and Pharoh Cooper. After getting mixed results in the first two games, Dylan has come on really strong in the past two. Against Vandy, he threw for well over 200 yards and three touchdowns. He could have had a lot more, too, if his receivers hadn't dropped some of his passes; Shaq Roland had a particularly bad drop on what should have been a long touchdown reception. Dylan was particularly impressive in converting third downs. His favorite target in the game was Pharoh Cooper, who made some big catches, including on some of the aforementioned third downs. Cooper also had a huge run out of the wildcat late in the game to ice the win. Carolina was effective all around on offense, though, getting good production out of its running game and getting several receivers involved in the passing game.