Sept. 24, 2011
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 12/10 South Carolina used a dominant effort from its defense to defeat Vanderbilt, 21-3, on Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The Gamecocks held the Commodores to just 77 yards of offense (73 passing, four rushing), forced three turnovers and recorded six sacks in their best defensive performance of the season.
“Our defense came to play tonight,” South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said. “That was by far our best game of the year. Basically had a shutout and really limited (Vanderbilt) to not much at all. Obviously, our defense was the big reason we won the game.”
With the win, South Carolina improves to 4-0 for the first time since 2001 and 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt drops to 3-1 on the season and 1-1 in the conference.
Senior defensive end Melvin Ingram and freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney recorded four tackles apiece to lead the Gamecocks. Ingram tallied three tackles for loss, including two sacks, and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, which was his third score of the year. Clowney finished with two sacks, both of which resulted in fumbles. Senior Spur Antonio Allen also had four tackles and his third fumble recovery of the season.
South Carolina gained 367 yards on the night, with 236 through the air and 131 on the ground. Sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore rushed for 77 yards and a score and had 73 yards receiving and a touchdown to carry the offense.
Senior quarterback Stephen Garcia completed 16-of-30 passes for 228 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. Ace Sanders had four receptions for 75 yards, and Alshon Jeffery added two receptions for 34 yards in the win. Jeffery passed Sterling Sharpe for second on the all-time receiving yards list at South Carolina with 2,526 yards in his career. He needs 255 yards to pass Kenny McKinley as the all-time leader.
After Vanderbilt grabbed a 3-0 first-quarter lead on a 33-yard field goal by Carey Spear, South Carolina turned to its defense for a spark in the second stanza.
On third and 7 from the Vanderbilt 39, Commodore quarterback Larry Smith dropped back to pass, but Clowney burst into the backfield and stripped the ball. Allen scooped up the fumble and returned it 20 yards before Vanderbilt’s Wesley Tate punched the ball loose into the end zone, where Ingram fell on it for the Gamecock touchdown. Jay Wooten’s extra point gave the Gamecocks a 7-3 lead with 11:59 left in the half.
“Melvin was on the spot there, no question about it, on the fumble recovery,” Spurrier said. “He seems to be around the ball, and Antonio was around the ball. Those two guys combined for that play. It’s sort of neat because they’re the ones making the plays all year.”
The Gamecocks went into the locker room with a 14-3 lead after executing their two-minute offense to perfection with 46 seconds left in the half, needing just two plays to find the end zone. On second and 5 from the Gamecock 48, Garcia found Lattimore on short pass, and Lattimore broke through a tackle and weaved his way down the field for a 52-yard touchdown reception.
South Carolina continued its solid defensive play to start the second half, forcing a three-and-out on the opening possession. The Gamecock offense then helped put the game out of reach with an 11-play, 83-yard scoring drive capped by a 22-yard touchdown run by Lattimore, giving South Carolina a 21-3 advantage with 7:46 left in the third quarter.
The Gamecocks shut down the Commodore offense the remainder of the game, allowing just seven yards the rest of the way to seal the win.
“I think we only had one bad call there at the end,” Spurrier said. “Other than that, we just played solid, sound defense and put the guys in position to let them play. They played well and tackled well.”
South Carolina returns to action at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 1 against Auburn.