Some quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 37-14 victory over Vanderbilt.
TCB. Listen, we don’t always win SEC games on the road by three touchdowns, so I can understand Gamecock fans being excited about and re-energized by yesterday’s win. Clinging to a slim six point lead at the intermission, South Carolina dominated the game in the second half, finishing with more than 500 total yards and holding Vanderbilt below 300. The game was far from clean, and we left a minimum of 14 points on the field, but all in all it was a nice bounce back from the thrashing we took at home against Georgia.
That said, I would describe the win as nothing more than “fine”. In the grand scheme of things, Vanderbilt is still Vanderbilt. Sure, they should’ve beaten Notre Dame at South Bend last weekend, and the entire ESPN College GameDay crew picked them to beat us. But the reaction nationally to our win was…well, there was no reaction. Nobody saw that score crawl across that screen and thought “wowwww, South Carolina is back baby!”
No, it wasn’t that. But it was a win that was vital more because a loss would’ve been devastating to the long-term outlook of this team and this season. Saturday in Nashville was nice, but at the end of the day it was nothing more than USC taking care of business, and we should all be grateful for that.
Keeping it 100. Rico Dowdle rushed for 112 yards and Shi Smith had 119 yards receiving, making them the first RB/WR duo to pull of that feat in the same game since the 2016 Missouri game (h/t @KershawsCorner).
Dowdle once again looked like himself after being bottled up and stone-handed in the UGA game. He benefited from a tremendous effort by the Gamecock offensive line, who looked as good in the run game as we’ve seen in a couple of years. Vandy killer AJ Turner and Ty’Son Williams added 64 and 48 yards respectfully, as USC put up a season high 273 rushing yards. Oh yeah Mon Denson also added a touchdown.
Shi Smith, meanwhile, has now led the Gamecocks in receiving in two of the three games this year, with a bizarre game in between where he was only targeted twice for 11 yards. It looks as if Bryan McClendon is set on using Deebo Samuel as more of a Swiss Army Knife in the offense, with pop passes, sweeps and shorter routes to get him in space. That leaves Smith and Bryan Edwards to take the lid off over the top, which they’ve both done at different times this season. Even with the possible loss of OrTre Smith to a knee injury, defenses are going to be forced to pick a poison when defending the Gamecock passing game this season.
Read and right. Jake Bentley had another solid game (19-28, 261, 1 TD, 1 INT) leading the offense. His accuracy is continuing to improve, and his deep ball touch seems to be coming along.
Bentley still needs to find a way to cut down on tipped passes and do a better job recognizing his backs in the flat. One tipped pass led to an interception and eventually points for Vandy as he failed to recognize a DE dropping into coverage. Other tipped passes are not 100% his fault as there are techniques in pass blocking that help keep defensive linemen’s hands down, but ultimately it’s up to Jake to get the ball through the lane uncontested.
As far as the backs in the flat, I’ve never seen defenses give up the RB so much space as I’ve seen in games (all games, not just USC games) this season. Getting the ball to a back one on one with a linebacker seems to be a guaranteed six yards these days.
Pace maker. Bryan McClendon has kept good on his promise to speed up the South Carolina offense. At the same time it’s a smart pace, not going fast just for the sake of going fast, and has yielded very nice results in our two wins this year. My only real complaint yesterday was throwing the ball four times after having separate 2nd-and-shorts in Vandy territory, including back-to-back low percentage fades when we had the Commodores on their heels. Run the dang ball BMac.
The Mountain. This pretty much speaks for itself, and Javon Kinlaw stands to make a lot of money next April.
Fenton Island and the Horn of Columbia. Rashad Fenton picked up his second interception of the season against Vanderbilt, and I literally did not hear the name Jaycee Horn mentioned yesterday. You know how good that is? You don’t think coordinators like to see freshmen DB’s covering their WR’s? Not these guys, they are rarely testing Mr. Horn and that speaks volumes.
BAWlin. Bryson Allen-Williams is a damn good Gamecock, and I’m glad to see him back and contributing. He was arguably the second most dominant defensive player on the field yesterday.
Cat Nip. It’s really hard to explain how Kentucky currently has a four game winning streak over South Carolina. But a few years ago it was just as hard to explain how South Carolina had a TEN game winning streak over Kentucky. That’s not a shot at either program, we’re just two middle of the road SEC football programs trying to get to that next level, right? How can one team dominate the other for such a long stretch? I don’t know the answer, football can be a strange game is all I can come up with.
That said, when I was watching Kentucky drill Mississippi State last night, I actually started to feel better about our game. The hype is on the other foot now (despite Vegas making us an early favorite how in the world) and Kentucky will come in as the ranked team with a lot of momentum on their side. We’ll have the chance to knock them off their pedestal, much like we did in 2007 when we beat the 8th-ranked ‘Cats 38-23.
I can promise you this Kentucky team is no Vandy. They are tough and confident, and have an all-American running back in Bennie Snell. It will take our best shot.
I’m ready. Go Cocks.