A promising start failed to hold up Saturday night, as South Carolina ruined Vanderbilt's homecoming with a 21-7 win. The 'Dores jumped out to a 7-0 lead and used a bend-but-don't-break defense to control the first 29 minutes of the game, but eventually gassed out and couldn't hold on as the Gamecocks came back to win. After stopping SC several times in Vandy territory, the team finally gave up a backbreaking play in the fourth quarter - a 72 yard touchdown pass from Stephen Garcia - to seal the night's results.
An aggressive blitz package and solid tackling kept South Carolina at bay well into the third quarter before the defense began to tire. With each play the Gamecock offense got more powerful before breaking out in the second half against a lead-footed Vandy squad. Offensively, the problems that have haunted this team all year reared their ugly head again; a lack of protection for Smith, faltering accuracy in the passing game, and an inability to properly block for the team's running backs. As a result, the 'Dores mustered just seven points on the night. On the bright side, the drive in which they scored these points was probably Larry Smith's finest work as a Commodore, using his mobility well and finding open receivers downfield. However, on the night, the junior quarterback was just 13 of 31 passing for just 142 yards.
Casey Hayward was the game's MVP, effectively stating his case as a SEC shutdown corner with a number of passes defensed and a key interception late in the game. Hayward stayed tight to his man throughout the night and was a big reason why South Carolina was held to only 21 points. In all, the defense played admirably while Vanderbilt fans were reminded of how far this team still needs to go offensively. It was a definite step up from last week's debacle at Georgia, but moral victories are a stale taste for this team by now. Unfortunately, that seems to be all that we're going to see until the offense can get it together.