Will Muschamp is hoping his second stint as a head coach goes better than his first.
He’s off to a good start.
South Carolina put together back-to-back scoring drives in the 4th quarter and took advantage of several second half mistakes by Vanderbilt to sneak out of Nashville with a 13-10 win. The game was every bit of a struggle to watch as the score would indicate and the two teams picked to finish at the bottom of the SEC East certainly won’t cause anybody to change their predictions of that happening after seeing the opener.
Vanderbilt began the game well, jumping out to a 10 point lead behind the strong running game of Ralph Webb (97 yards on the night) and Khari Blasingame (68 yards and a score). But things went downhill from there, with six straight three-and-out possessions at one point and a missed 45 yard field goal attempt late in the 4th quarter. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur was ineffective after flashing potential early, going just 8-of-22 on the night with 73 yards passing.
A 10 point lead looked like it would hold up though with such a tough Commodores defense limiting South Carolina on nearly every play. Gamecocks quarterback Perry Orth started behind center and was able to move the chains with his arm at times but he was spelled by freshman Brandon McIllwain throughout the night in order to bring more of a rushing threat to the offense.
In the end, both did enough down the stretch of the 4th quarter to get kicker Elliott Fry within range for a late field goal. The kick sailed through the uprights from 55 yards out but would have been good from 65 and was just enough to give South Carolina a wild comeback victory in Muschamp’s debut with the team.
The loss will prompt plenty of questions for Commodores head coach Derek Mason as the offense struggled once again to get going, wasting another good defensive effort. The decision to go for a long field goal (which missed) in the 4th quarter also set up Fry’s kick that proved to be the eventual game winner too.
It could still be a long season for South Carolina as they try to find their footing with a tough SEC schedule but Thursday night was no doubt a nice start for the new head coach.