The South Carolina Gamecocks got the bounce-back victory they needed and achieved bowl eligibility in Nashville on Saturday night, taking home a 38-27 victory over Vanderbilt and moving to 6-3 (3-3 SEC) on the season.
After Darius Rush perfectly read a route and snagged an interception on Vanderbilt’s first possession, the Gamecocks finally got off to that much awaited hot offensive start, with Xavier Legette making a 29-yard touchdown catch to cap off a five-play, 70-yard drive in a snappy 2 minutes, 15 seconds. The Commodores struck back, however, when quarterback A.J. Swann connected with Quincy Skinner Jr. on a 66-yard scoring bomb. Fortunately, South Carolina took only a minute or so to respond in kind, when Dakereon Joyner, in at quarterback, scrambled during a trick play and hit Juice Wells for a brilliant 68-yard catch and run that made it 14-7 Gamecocks. After a USC three-and-out, DQ Smith’s strip-sack of Swann led to a Mitch Jeter 31-yard field goal that closed the scoring for the first quarter and staked South Carolina to a 17-7 advantage.
Vanderbilt immediately threatened in the second quarter, once again turning to Skinner Jr. on a 9-yard scoring grab to make the margin a decidedly uncomfortable 17-14 on a drive that also showcased some truly awful tackling by South Carolina. The Gamecocks, though, managed to mount another answer when Christian Beal-Smith broke off a 52-yard touchdown rush. USC forced a turnover on downs on Vandy’s next possession, and used its next turn with the ball to produce an incredible 19-yard scoring grab by Josh Vann, which broke open the first half in South Carolina’s favor, 31-14.
Much like they did in the second quarter, the Commodores got the second half off to a productive start, taking nearly 6 minutes off the clock with an 11-play, 81-yard scoring drive that made it a 10-point Gamecock lead. Fortunately — as it had done all game — South Carolina answered, this time with a 19-yard strike to Wells, and pushed the advantage to 38-21 as the third quarter wound to a close.
The teams traded punts to open the fourth quarter before Vandy engineered another scoring drive, making it 38-27 when its two-point attempt failed and was intercepted in the end zone. The Gamecocks were forced to punt, but the defense came up with a huge forced fumble and recovery on Vanderbilt’s next possession that helped salt the game away, further aided by another interception with about a minute left to cap the game at 38-27.
South Carolina continues its road trip next week with a stop at Florida at 4 p.m. on the SEC Network.