South Carolina Football: Full game notes from Vanderbilt win

South Carolina football quarterback Spencer Rattler played about as well as he could considering the weather on Saturday. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina football quarterback Spencer Rattler played about as well as he could considering the weather on Saturday. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports /
1 of 4

On a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon, South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer led his troops out for a must-win game against the Vanderbilt Commodores. The 3-6 Gamecocks and 2-8 Commodores met in a matchup between the bottom two teams in the SEC East standings.

The weather was bad on Saturday as the temperature never got out of the low-50s, and 12 hours of rain had the field soaked. The weather was a major factor the entire afternoon, making the play on the field pretty ugly.

The second of four wins needed for bowl eligibility (Jacksonville State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Clemson) was one that had to be earned in front of an understandably less-than-capacity crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium.

For a shorter summary of South Carolina football vs. Vanderbilt, click here.

South Carolina Football vs. Vanderbilt:
A Game Summary

It didn’t take long for the weather to be a factor as Xavier Legette slipped a bit on the opening kickoff. He didn’t slip on the first play from scrimmage, however, as Spencer Rattler found him over the middle for 16. After a nice run from Mario Anderson, Juju McDowell got open for an 18-yard gain. Nyck Harbor dropped a low pass, and pressure up the middle forced a 3rd down incompletion.

After a Kai Kroeger punt pinned the Commodores inside the 10, a Sedrick Alexander carry and an offsides penalty against Nick Barrett gave Vandy a 1st down. A bad snap saw the wet football shoot back for a loss of 14, and the ‘Dores couldn’t recover. A weak snap with the wet ball almost resulted in a block, but Jalon Kilgore got the offense the ball back on the positive side of the field.

On the ensuing drive, Mario Anderson did what Mario Anderson does. A hard-nosed run pushed the Gamecocks up to the 35-yard line, but a no-gain, a false start, and an underthrown ball made it 3rd-and-15. Some Rattler scrambling brilliance bought enough time for #7 to find Legette for a 39-yard gain.

On 1st-and-goal, USC went with the Big Boy package they utilized last week. Instead of a rushing touchdown for Tonka Hemingway, Boogie Huntley caught a 1-yard TD from the tight end spot. The extra point was botched, so the Gamecocks led 6-0 with 6:37 left in the 1st quarter.

The kickoff went out-of-bounds, another offsides flag was thrown on Tyreek Johnson, and the Gamecocks some missed tackles to give Vandy the ball near midfield. The defense stiffened, though, and Boogie Huntley crushed a double team on 3rd down for a tackle for loss, forcing another Matt Hayball punt that Kilgore fair caught at the 5.

A short pass to Ahmarean Brown was followed by a very physical run-after-catch from Josh Simon for 24 yards. Legette caught two straight passes to earn a 1st down, the second coming off of a Luke Doty drop/tip drill. Simon snagged his second 1st down catch of the drive, and two plays later, Djay Braswell took a throwback from Rattler all the way down to the 1 to end the 1st quarter. Two plays later, South Carolina football took a 13-0 lead on a Rattler zone read keeper.

On the next drive, a Tonka Hemingway deflection at the line of scrimmage was a good start for the defense, but playmaking receiver Will Sheppard picked up a 3rd down conversion for the ‘Dores. Then, like he was shot out of a cannon, Bam Martin-Scott fired through the B-gap to crush quarterback Ken Seals for the sack. A near interception from Nick Emmanwori followed, and Tonka Hemingway almost picked off a pass on 3rd down. The incompletion forced another punt.

Starting just inside their own 20, Rattler hit his 10th pass in a row (after starting 2-6) on another 1st down to Legette, but a Nick Gargiulo worm-burner of a snap set USC back to 2nd-and-21. The next play saw Rattler unable to get enough on the ball to get it to Legette again, and Vanderbilt picked off the pass at the Carolina 35.

The Vanderbilt offense went nowhere with the opportunity, gaining just two yards on four plays before turning the ball over on downs.

Back-to-back 1st downs to Ahmarean Brown and Xavier Legette were all the offense could get going as Brown dropped a would-be 4th down conversion to hand the ball right back to Seals and the Vandy offense.

The Carolina defense continued its strong play with another 3-and-out. Legette couldn’t hang on to a 50-yard bomb as De’Rickey Wright made a nice play to get a hand in between Legette and the ball. Two plays later, Legette couldn’t hang on to a Rattler pass, bobbling it before securing the grab. The time the ball was in the air was enough for the defense to respond, stopping Legette just short of a 1st down, forcing a USC 3-and-out.

Seals hit London Humphreys for a 1st down to start the next series, and Sedrick Alexander picked up another. Bam Martin-Scott almost intercepted Seals’ next pass, and two non-productive plays later, the Commodores had to punt again. With two timeouts left, Carolina took over at their own 3-yard line with 23 seconds left. A kneeldown sent the teams to halftime with the Gamecocks up 13-0.

After halftime, the rain picked up. After a Jayden McGowan kick return got the ‘Dores past the 30, Ken Seals found London Humphreys for the longest Vanderbilt gain of the day (16 yards), and Boogie Huntley hit Seals late on the next play, resulting in a 15-yard “gain” on the flag and the team’s second-longest movement of the game.

AJ Newberry and Seals combined for another 1st down on the ground, and all of a sudden Vanderbilt was inside the Gamecocks’ 25. Two short runs and an incompletion saw the Vandy offense stay on the field for 4th down, but the Carolina defense stopped Quincy Skinner short of the line to gain. The turnover on downs gave USC the ball at their own 15.

Freshman Nyck Harbor had his first catch since the A&M game to pick up 16 yards before slipping on the wet playing surface. Legette picked up his 8th catch on the next play, and Josh Simon earned another 1st down after breaking a couple of tackles. Luke Doty and Legette each had 1st down grab before Ahmarean Brown made a man miss on a 24-yard screen-and-run for his 1st touchdown in garnet and black. The score stood 20-0 after the touchdown.

The defense forced another 3-and-out, and Josh Simon ran over another Vanderbilt defender on his way to yet another 1st down. The play of the game came one snap later as Mario Anderson broke a couple of tackles before spinning out of a big pile. #24 was off to the races as he galloped 72 yards to pay dirt. The route was on as Carolina took a 27-0 lead after the Mitch Jeter PAT.

Clark Lea’s offense picked up two 1st downs before Bam Martin-Scott picked up his 11th tackle of the day. Seals continued to lead his team down the field, and an AJ Newberry 1st down run put the ‘Dores inside the 30. A 9-yard keeper from Seals ended the quarter. The score was 27-0 at the start of the 4th, but Vandy was threatening.

The threat was delivered upon on the first play of the new quarter as Seals found Skinner for a 19-yard score after beating O’Donnell Fortune off the line. The Jacob Borcila point after was missed, however, so the Gamecocks lead was 27-6 after the score. The scoring drive was over one-third of the Commodores’ total yardage for the game up to that point.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains dialed up a shot to Legette on the next offensive play, but he couldn’t hang onto the 60-yard strike from Rattler as he tripped over a defender after getting his hands to the football. The Gamecocks were forced to punt on the drive, and Kroeger knocked Vandy all the way back to the 15-yard line.

Sedrick Alexander and Patrick Smith combined to earn a first down for the white-clad Commodores to begin the next drive. A nice pressure from Stone Blanton forced an incompletion, and another Tonka Hemingway deflection (his 3rd) created a 3rd-and-long situation.

O’Donnell Fortune nearly intercepted the 3rd down pass, and a bad snap resulted in a Keenan Nelson, Jr. trifecta. The redshirt freshman blocked the punt, recovered the loose ball, and returned it for a touchdown to give his team a 34-6 lead.

The Gamecock linebackers continued playing really well (Martin-Scott and Debo Williams combined for 23 tackles up to this point), but Vandy got just enough for a 1st down two more times.

Then, a weird play began with a low snap on the ground that backup quarterback Walter Taylor scooped up. After running into a wall of bodies at the line of scrimmage, freshman Pup Howard stripped Taylor for the second fumble on the play. Boogie Huntley pounced on the loose ball, and Carolina took over in positive territory.

A Houdini-esque escape from Rattler turned a sack into a 9-yard completion to Mario Anderson, and freshman Djay Braswell picked up a 1st down. A couple of plays later, Rattler found O’Mega Blake streaking down the sideline. Rattler hit Blake in stride for a 26-yard touchdown strike. A Mitch Jeter missed extra point kept the score at 40-6.

A mass wave of substitutes came in for both teams on the next drive. A botched exchange between Walter Taylor and Chase Gillespie resulted in another fumble. This one was recovered by reserve defensive tackle Jamaal Whyce.

The bespectacled future took the field on the ensuing drive. LaNorris Sellers, potentially next year’s QB1, handed the ball off three times before keeping the ball on 4th down. He picked up the 1st down and then broke a tackle on his way to a 36-yard touchdown, the first rushing score of his career. The Gamecocks led 47-6 after the Mitch Jeter extra point make.

The Gamecock backups played well on defense on the following drive, forcing another Hayball punt. USC took a knee, and the blowout was officially complete.