Oct. 24, 2009
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -Stephen Garcia threw two touchdown passes and No. 23 South Carolina ended Vanderbilt’s two-game series win streak – barely – with a 14-10 victory Saturday night.
The Gamecocks (6-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) played as flat as they did the past two years against Vanderbilt (2-6, 0-5). Only thanks to Garcia and his young receivers, this time it didn’t cost them the win.
“I know it wasn’t pretty, but it was a real good win over a tough Vandy team,” coach Steve Spurrier said.
The Commodores got the ball one last time with 4 minutes left and drove to South Carolina’s 25. However, quarterback Larry Smith was called for intentional grounding on 3rd down, then did not get close to the necessary yardage on fourth-and-32.
Spurrier probably won’t put this game among his team’s top offensive efforts. Still, the head ball coach at least got to walk off a winner unlike the past two games in the series.
Spurrier was a perfect 14-0 over the school he calls “Vandy” until 2007 when the heavy underdogs upset the then-sixth ranked Gamecocks 17-6.
The Commodores backed it up a season later, defeating another ranked South Carolina squad 24-17. They almost made it three in a row, but instead lost their sixth straight SEC game dating back to last season.
Ryan Fowler’s 21-yard field goal in the third quarter put the Commodores ahead 10-7 and for a while, it looked like a mix of stellar defense and special teams play would keep them out front.
South Carolina had only one first down on its first three possessions of the third quarter. Vanderbilt punter Brett Upson kept the Gamecocks pinned with boots of 57 yards and 64 yards. Two of his punts were downed at the Gamecock 1.
But after South Carolina’s go-ahead touchdown, Vanderbilt’s struggling offense could not rebound.
Garcia completed 22 of 33 passes for 312 yards. Freshman runner Kenny Miles had 102 yards rushing on 18 carries.
Garcia had his second 300 yard game this season. But said he and the Gamecocks “need to play a lot better if we’re going to beat Tennessee” next week.
The school honored its 1969 Atlantic Coast Conference champions and its 1984 “Black Magic” team that was the only one in history to win 10 games. Allen Mitchell, the quarterback of the latter squad, said an hour before kickoff he feared the Gamecocks would come out flat. Was he ever right.
If not for a couple of “wins” on official reviews, the uninspired Gamecocks might have left the field at halftime trailing instead of tied 7-7.
Tailback Kenny Miles appeared to fumble on South Carolina’s fourth snap with Vanderbilt’s Patrick Benoist grabbing it deep in Gamecocks territory.
But the officials in the replay booth said Miles was down before the ball got away and South Carolina’s drive continued.
The Gamecocks finally broke through on Garcia’s touchdown pass to Moore, who juggled the ball and didn’t look like he had full possession until his right foot stepped on the inbounds line.
Another official review – and another call for the Gamecocks, who took a 7-0 lead.
That didn’t last long, however, as freshman Warren Norman went 99 yards for a touchdown on South Carolina’s kickoff to tie things.
Norman became the first-ever Commodore – Vanderbilt began playing football in 1890 – with two kickoff return TDs in a season.
There’s no telling where Vanderbilt would’ve been without Norman’s run back. The team managed just 112 yards of offense in the opening half. Their best series came when they drove 65 yards to South Carolina’s 8. But Fowler missed a 25-yard field goal try.
Spurrier, who won his 105th SEC game to tie Georgia’s Vince Dooley for third all-time, was asked about that distinction. He said he was more impressed that South Carolina had won a record five straight SEC games at home. “That’s a record, right?” Spurrier said. “I like that one better.”
|Post-Game Report||Sights & Sounds|
|Stephen Garcia||Alshon Jeffery|
|Kenny Miles||D.L. Moore|
|Shaq Wilson||Tori Gurley|