Oct. 22, 2005
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Sidney Rice’s third touchdown catch – a 3-yard reception with 1:41 to go – lifted South Carolina to a 35-28 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday and moved Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier to a perfect 13-0 in his career against the Commodores.
Vanderbilt (4-4, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) had one last chance, driving to the Gamecocks 30 with 20 seconds to go. But Jay Cutler, who finished with a career-high 339 yards passing, threw four straight incompletions and the Commodores lost their sixth straight to South Carolina.
The Gamecocks (4-3, 2-3) had rallied behind versatile junior star Syvelle Newton, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third as the Gamecocks rallied to take a 28-14 lead in the final period. But Newton, who Spurrier lined up at quarterback, wide receiver and tailback, injured his left ankle on the his 11-yard scoring run, eventually going to the locker room.
When Newton left the game, the Gamecocks lost their spark – and Vanderbilt took advantage.
Jay Cutler connected with freshman Earl Bennett on a 41-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 28-21. Bennett came up big again on Vanderbilt’s tying series, catching a 16-yard pass and one for 11 yards on fourth-and-10. Cassen Jackson-Garrison had his second touchdown run, from 6 yards out, to tie the game.
Without Newton to back him up, Mitchell took control on the winning drive. He completed passes of 32 and 14 yards to Kris Clark, then connected with Rice for 18 yards to the Vanderbilt 5. Two plays later, Rice cut across the middle of the end zone, catching Mitchell’s touchdown pass.
Mitchell raised his arms in the air, turning to the joyous South Carolina sideline.
Rice ended with eight receptions for 132 yards. He became the first player in school history with a touchdown catch in six consecutive games.
Bennett had a career-high 16 catches for 204 yards.
For much of the second half, it was Newton who was unstoppable – from wherever he lined up.
He had a touchdown pass of 11 yards to tight end Carson Askins to tie the game at 14, then he had a 34-yard scoring throw to Rice to take a 21-14 lead.
After Johnathan Joseph’s interception on Vanderbilt’s next series, Newton extended the lead with a twisting 11-yard run. But as the Williams-Brice Stadium crowd cheered, Newton remained face down as trainers rushed to his side.
When he was helped off the field, he held his left leg off the ground.
For a while, it looked like a different form of the quarterback shuffle Spurrier sometimes used at Florida.
This time, Spurrier would have Mitchell under center, then jog out to the receiver spot as Newton would take a few steps from the backfield to get the snap.
The “who’s getting the ball” tactic seemed to confuse Vanderbilt’s defense in the second half. Mitchell hit passes of 13 and 8 yards to set up Newton’s first scoring pass, which came after Mitchell’s long lateral to Newton.
Mitchell had passes of 31 yards to Rice and 15 yards to Noah Whiteside before Newton’s TD.