South Carolina took one small step toward winning the SEC East and earning a trip back to Atlanta Thursday night with a tougher-than-expected win over an upset-minded Vanderbilt.
And, hey, a decent crowd showed up too.
What fans saw was mistake-prone football synonymous with the first game of the season. Neither Vandy nor the ninth-ranked Gamecocks could pass the ball, and it didn’t help that quarterback Connor Shaw (pictured) was nursing a bruised throwing shoulder half the night.
Shaw finished 7-of-11 for 67 yards and an interception. Not exactly numbers Steve Spurrier wants to see. About the only thing Shaw threw effectively was caution to the wind as he ran — recklessly, you could argue with that shoulder — 14 times for 92 yards. Marcus Lattimore, back from an ACL injury, tacked on 109 yards and two touchdowns.
You have to give the Commodores credit for battling back after an early 10-0 deficit, and Vandy’s undersized offensive line was even able to keep South Carolina’s d-line, and Jadeveon Clowney, under control for part of the night. James Franklin has been preaching over and over that this isn’t the “same old Vanderbilt.”
Attitude-wise? Not in the least. There’s a new fire with this program that just hasn’t been there before. Performance-wise? There’s nothing “new” about Vandy yet. The Commodores weren’t able to capitalize on two early turnovers and good field position (when they had it).
Until the ‘Dores get that statement win, the corner can’t be considered turned.
(*Yes, there was a missed pass interference call; no, it’s not the story of the game. It was a close game, you can magnify a dozen things that could have gone differently.)