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Gamecocks vs. Vandy: The Shawn of a New Era

Three Keys to the game and a prediction.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Following one of the most tumultuous weeks in the program's history, which included an impromptu trip to Baton Rouge to face the LSU Tigers, the Gamecocks return to Columbia to face the Commodores for Homecoming Week.

This time, however, we do it without the HBC roaming the sidelines, but, I digress.

Tomorrow marks the dawn Shawn of a New Era in Columbia, it also presents an opportunity for the Gamecocks to pick up the pieces and finish the second half of the year in better fashion than it began. (bear with me here, I'm being optimistic)

What do the Gamecocks need to do in order to send the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-3, 0-2) back to Nashville with their third conference loss?

1) Sustain Offensive Drives.

The South Carolina Gamecocks offense has been inconsistent, to say the least, and it's inability to build any sort of sustained momentum has forced the defense to stay on the field for the lion's share of game clock for the majority of the season. Your perfect case study? Last week's game against LSU. The Gamecocks' offense sustained only ONE drive longer than four minutes in length (that drive ended in a punt), and only TWO drives lasting longer than two minutes. Granted, the game was played against a very very good LSU team, but the statistics are not unlike our other five games to this point. Our offense has only three scoring drives this season in excess of five minutes, two during the UNC game and one versus UCF. Simply put? if the offense can manage the clock, and stay out on the field, we will win the ballgame. Considering our opponent's vastly underrated defense, the imperative to keep that squad on the field as long as possible makes this an even bigger key to victory.

2) Pressure the quarterback.

Quarterback pressure, whether it's actual or perceived, is the key to forcing a team into mistakes; something the Gamecocks have done on occasion this season, but without regularity. Vanderbilt's situation at Running Back is average at best: Ralph Webb is really the only productive back for the 'Dores this season, and no viable option to replace him after a potentially season-ending injury to highly-touted Freshman, Josh Crawford. What does this mean? Play aggressively on defense and force Johnny McCrary to make plays. He's thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this year, and the only way to continue that trend is to send blitz and stunt packages at the Vanderbilt offense.

3) GET FIRED UP. (no seriously)

Let's face it, we've had a pretty rotten fortnight on, and off, the football field in South Carolina. There have been myriad reasons to be down on the Gamecocks, and an equal number of reasons to be more concerned with finding access to potable water and the modern comforts of home that have been ripped from beneath so many of us. We could have many very good excuses to cut and run on this team, pick up in January and beat the decades-old war drum of Gamecock sports and sound the battle cry of, "WAIT 'TILL NEXT YEAR!"

Don't do that.

Now is the time to stand firm. Now is the time to get excited. Not only for the young men that will take the field Saturday, but for ourselves.

This game needs passion.

Our Team needs passion.

We have not shown what we're capable of.

We need to ignite the flame.

Gamecocks - 28 Vandy - 12

Forever to Thee,