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Vanderbilt loses to South Carolina, 24-7

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Oh my God, what did we just watch?

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Down to its third-string quarterback after the first drive of the game, Vanderbilt’s offense turned in a dreadful performance in a 24-7 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday night.

It would have been hard to script a better start to the game for the Commodores. After forcing a quick punt by South Carolina, Riley Neal — starting at quarterback in place of Mo Hasan, who was still in the concussion protocol — led Vanderbilt on an 11-play, 77-yard drive that took 6:06 off the clock and concluded with Neal finding Cam Johnson on a 27-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring.

The Gamecocks appeared primed to respond with a score of their own, but Vanderbilt’s Elijah McAllister stripped South Carolina’s Mon Denson on a first down run at the Vanderbilt 9, giving the Commodores the ball back. With Neal headed to the locker room with an injury, Deuce Wallace came out for Vanderbilt on the next drive and, with some help from Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Justice Shelton-Mosley, led a drive down the field that ran out the first quarter with Vanderbilt holding a 7-0 lead.

The drive ultimately stalled when Wallace threw an incompletion on 3rd and 2 at the South Carolina 39. The teams would trade punts before the Gamecocks’ Ryan Hilinski would find Xavier Legette in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass, capping an 8-play, 54-yard drive and tying the game at 7 with 7:50 to go in the 2nd quarter. And after another three-and-out by the Commodore offense, South Carolina would take a 14-7 lead shortly before the half on a 13-play, 69-yard drive finished by a 1-yard touchdown run by Kevin Harris. In spite of taking over with 1:38 left, Vanderbilt seemed content to go into the half trailing by a touchdown.

The third quarter turned into a slog: after Vanderbilt punted on its opening drive, South Carolina unleashed a 13-play, 43-yard drive that drained over six minutes from the clock ... and ended with the Gamecocks punting from the Vanderbilt 45 after penalties caused their drive to stall. But a key interception thrown by Deuce Wallace led to a Parker White field goal from 22 yards, extending the Gamecocks’ lead to 17-7 with 12:18 left in the game.

The dagger came with 6:39 left in the game, when Hilinski hit Bryan Edwards for a 25-yard touchdown pass to make the score 24-7. Wallace’s second interception of the game gave South Carolina another scoring chance at the Vanderbilt 18, but Vanderbilt’s defense stuffed South Carolina on 4th and goal to keep the score at 24-7.

That was the final score. Vanderbilt’s offense opened the game with a 77-yard scoring drive and finished the game with 189 yards of total offense. South Carolina rolled for 440 yards of offense. Vanderbilt will need to win out to become bowl eligible.