Vanderbilt travels to Columbia, South Carolina, tomorrow looking to end three losing streaks: a 15-game SEC losing streak that dates back to a win over Missouri on October 19, 2019; a ten-game SEC road losing streak dating back to a win at Arkansas on October 27, 2018; and a 12-game losing streak to these Gamecocks that dates all the way back to September 4, 2008. The Commodores’ 12-game losing streak against South Carolina is longer than their current losing streak against any SEC school not named Alabama (who Vanderbilt hasn’t beaten since 1984), and it’s a combination of bad football and bad luck, with the Commodores’ three-year run with James Franklin just happening to overlap with the Jadeveon Clowney years at South Carolina, when the Gamecocks went 33-6 over three years.
In other words, it’s been a while. Of course, like Vanderbilt, South Carolina is bad this year. The Gamecocks are 3-3 right now but those three wins came against Eastern Illinois, East Carolina, and Troy. They’re 0-3 in the SEC and have lost those three games by a combined score of 101-43.
Ahead of tomorrow’s game, we asked some questions of Kody Timmers, site manager at SB Nation’s South Carolina blog, Garnet and Black Attack. His answers are below.
1. Shane Beamer is in his first season and currently sits at 3-3, 0-3 in the SEC. How are Gamecock fans feeling about the early returns under the new coach?
Whew, buddy. Beamer has his fans and apologists, no doubt, but a pretty good chunk of the SC fanbase is already having assorted meltdowns over his tenure — particularly the employment of offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield. That’ll happen, though, when your school makes the controversial hire of a guy with no previous head coaching experience and whose biggest qualification seemed to be “board members and former players love him.” Beamer has a long, long way to go to prove he’s got the juice in the face of a lot of understandable skepticism. Personally, I’m not really anti-Beamer at this point; it’s far too early to make a determination on what the rest of his SC career will look like, and Will Muschamp didn’t exactly leave a loaded roster behind. But there’s understandable frustration about some underperforming units, baffling playcalls, and so on. The SEC is a brutal place for on-job training, to say the least.
2. Luke Doty seems to have seized the quarterback job over the last few games, and while he’s completing nearly 60 percent of his passes and limiting interceptions... South Carolina is averaging 22 points per game. Do you think Doty is the quarterback going forward, or do you think Beamer will attempt to replace him next season?
Unless SC gets in the mix for a high-profile recruit or transfer portal prospect, I don’t know who else supplants Doty on the current roster. Our grad-assistant-turned-emergency-quarterback is gone after this season, and the other two guys in the quarterback room are a true freshman and an FCS transfer. Doty has experience and has flashed talent, but is clearly playing with a foot injury that was much worse than originally described, and is also doing it behind quite possibly the worst offensive line I’ve seen South Carolina field. Plenty of fans are agitating for the backups to see some time, but unless the coaches are stubbornly hiding Heisman-level talent from the world, I assume they’re nowhere near ready. More to the point, the OL/WR deficiencies are so glaring that our quarterbacks are probably interchangeable at the absolute best, anyway.
3. Who are some names for Vanderbilt fans to know on both sides of the ball?
Defensive back Jaylan Foster is one of the early season MVPs, having now recorded double-digit tackles in multiple games while also becoming a national leader in interceptions. Defensive lineman Kingsley “J.J.” Enagbare is probably also a name you’ll hear often on the broadcast, as he’s frequently responsible for generating South Carolina’s QB hits, hurries, and sacks. On the offensive side of things, play has been so consistently inconsistent that it’s hard to identify which receiver or back to watch out for. Kevin Harris, who dominated the SEC in rushing last year, is still shaking off the effects of back surgery, so Juju McDowell is probably the go-to guy in the backfield. As far as wideouts go, Jalen Brooks and Josh Vann are capable of at least one highlight catch per game, but they’re also just as distressingly capable of mind-boggling drops.
4. What are some things that South Carolina does well, or at least things that aren’t problems?
Special teams have been a bright spot, as you might expect with #BeamerBall; I’ve never seen a Gamecock team so aggressive (and productive) with blocking punts, and Parker White has been as steady a kicker as you can ask for. Prior to the Tennessee game, I would’ve said the secondary was a strength, but they got exposed pretty badly last week, so it remains to be seen whether that was an aberration or a more concerning trend. The defensive line, again outside of that UT game, has also been performing well overall. Given how moribund the Carolina offense is, especially, there’s no question this is a defense-oriented squad with the occasional flash on special teams as well.
5. Finally, make a prediction for the score of the game.
I would really, REALLY love to see an offensive explosion from the Gamecocks here, but until I see it, I just can’t believe it’ll happen. Given our teams’ recent history with ugly and low-scoring games, too, I could definitely see this being another slopfest slobberknocker with a final margin of 24-10 or so.