Derek Mason's first Southeastern Conference win will have to wait.
Vanderbilt rolled into Saturday's game against South Carolina as only a 1.5-point road underdog, but an anemic offense and five turnovers meant that they couldn't capitalize on the Gamecocks' mistakes. The Commodores fell 19-10 on Saturday, a loss that dropped them to 2-4 on the season and 0-3 in the SEC.
The Commodore defense held tough to keep this game tight, but their offense's inability to get out of their own way ultimately torpedoed Vandy's upset bid. Johnny McCrary threw three interceptions and fumbled twice to hamstring this team's offense and waste a career rushing day from Darrius Sims.
Vanderbilt's bend-don't-break defense kept this team in the game early. South Carolina capitalized on a Ralph Webb fumble with a -5 yard drive that ended with a 47-yard field goal on their first possession of the game. One Commodore punt later, the Gamecocks drove 74 yards to put the visiting team in a 6-0 hole nine minutes into this game. However, Vandy's offensive struggles kept the team from mounting a response until late in the second quarter. Elliot Fry's 39-yard field goal attempt bounced off the goalpost, allowing the 'Dores a respite from a two-possession deficit. They didn't pass up the opportunity to slash the USC lead this time.
Johnny McCrary led the team on a 79-yard touchdown drive that was saved by a T.J. Holloman targeting penalty that converted a Kris Kentera drop to a first-and-goal situation for Vandy. The 'Dores were stopped on first and second down, but Caleb Scott broke free on third-and-goal to haul in a four-yard touchdown pass that made it 7-6 as the clock wound down on the second quarter.
Vanderbilt kept that momentum rolling in the second quarter. A false start helped the 'Dores force an opening three-and-out, and then a 41-yard Darrius Sims run and a Steven Scheu conversion on third-and-17 led the visiting team to a 23-yard Tommy Openshaw field goal with 8:04 to play in the third quarter.
South Carolina wasn't content to roll over and give Derek Mason his first SEC win. They responded with a third-and-five conversion that led Pharoh Cooper 78 yards into the Vandy end zone to give the Gamecocks their first lead of the second half. The Commodores' response led to a McCrary interception at their own 45-yard line, and an exhausted defense gave up 43 yards on the next four plays to set up first and goal from the Vandy two-yard line. Fortunately for the visitors, two big stops and a Ryan White pass breakup limited Carolina to a 19-yard field goal and a 16-10 lead late in the third quarter.
The Vandy defense forced a fumble and an interception to give McCrary and the Vandy offense plenty of opportunities to mount a comeback, but the 'Dores sophomore quarterback threw a pair of interceptions that stopped any game-winning drives before they could start. His third pick of the day set USC up at the Commodore 16-yard line and led to a 22-yard field goal that pushed the deficit to 19-10 with fewer than six minutes to play in the game. Vanderbilt responded by driving to the USC 17-yard line, but a McCrary fumble with 3:45 left essentially sealed the Carolina win. A last-ditch drive ended with a four-and-out that confirmed this team's offensive ineptitude.
Vanderbilt fell to 2-4 and 0-3 in the SEC with the loss. The Gamecocks earned their first conference win - and Shawn Elliott's first win as a head coach - by beating the mistake-prone 'Dores. Vandy will return to the field next Saturday when they host Missouri at Dudley Field.