Vanderbilt vs. South Carolina: 10 Things We Learned in Gamecocks' Win

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2013

Vanderbilt vs. South Carolina: 10 Things We Learned in Gamecocks' Win

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    The South Carolina Gamecocks jumped out to an early 28-0 lead, but the Vanderbilt Commodores fought their way back scoring 25 of the next 32 points.

    But it wasn't enough, and Steve Spurrier's team took down the 'Dores, 35-25.

    With the victory, South Carolina improved to 2-1 on the season, and it earned the all-important conference win.

    But the SEC clash was a tale of two halves, and throughout the night, viewers learned many lessons from the Gamecocks.

Connor Shaw Put the Team on His Back

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    Connor Shaw quarterbacked the first two South Carolina scoring drives, but he also saved the Gamecocks later in the game.

    Shaw finished the day completing 21 of 29 passes for 284 yards and three scores, and he showcased his dual-threat abilities by running for 84 yards, too.

    The senior QB also converted two third downs on the game-sealing fourth-quarter drive.

    According to Ryan Wood of The Post and Courier, Shaw improved to a perfect 12-0 mark at home for his career.

Dylan Thompson Saw Meaningful Reps

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    Against North Carolina, Dylan Thompson completed his only pass for a touchdown. He did not accumulate any stats vs. Georgia last week, but Thompson made an impact against Vanderbilt.

    Thompson completed 7 of 9 passes for 75 yards, and he ran the ball three times for 23 yards and a touchdown.

    Spurrier sat the junior QB after an interception, but Thompson played a solid game until that turnover.

    The heir apparent to Shaw, Thompson is the clear backup for South Carolina, and every game rep he takes is beneficial either for next year or should anything happen to Shaw.

Mike Davis Continues to Be a Threat

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    Mike Davis racked up 198 yards from scrimmage (149 rushing, 49 receiving) and scored a touchdown last week against Georgia, and he continued that production vs. Vanderbilt.

    Davis tallied 144 yards (77 rushing, 67 receiving) and earned another six-pointer on Saturday night.

    The sophomore running back was making Commodores' defenders look silly by evading and outrunning potential tacklers.

    Unfortunately, Davis left the game due to an apparent leg injury, but David Cloninger of The State tweeted Davis suffered a "slight left ankle sprain and should be fine in two weeks."

Bruce Ellington Had a Career Night

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    Junior wide receiver Bruce Ellington set new career highs with eight catches and 111 yards.

    Ellington had seven of his eight catches at halftime, so Ellington helped set the tone in the first half.

    Additionally, he caught a beautiful touchdown pass from Shaw to cap off the Gamecocks' 28-point streak to start the game.

    If Ellington can become more of a consistent producer, South Carolina's offense will get a much-needed boost in the passing game.

The Sky Isn't Falling on Jadeveon Clowney

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    Believe it or not, Jadeveon Clowney isn't an awful player.

    Crazy, right?

    He has been taking loads of criticism for his early-season performance, but Clowney returned to his playmaking ways. He made a stellar swim move and absolutely blasted Vanderbilt QB Austyn Carta-Samuels, forcing a fumble that was recovered by teammate Kelcy Quarles.

    The highly coveted NFL prospect tallied four tackles, including the sack-fumble and was a force throughout the night.

Defense Was Victimized by Turnovers, But...

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    South Carolina's defense really was not that bad.

    Vanderbilt needed only one yard to score its first touchdown and then just 19 and 49 yards for the next two scores.

    The Gamecocks allowed just 268 yards—or 4.9 per play. The unit was victimized by awful field position granted to the Commodores, but Jimmy Legree came up huge with an interception at the 1-yard line to save the day.

    Spurrier would have liked to see his defense hold Vandy to a field goal instead of a touchdown once or twice, but overall, it was a solid performance from Clowney and Co.

South Carolina's Return Units Are Just Bad

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    South Carolina had the chance to return five punts, and three of them turned awful.

    Bruce Ellington didn't field one cleanly inside the 15-yard line, T.J. Gurley couldn't avoid a bouncing punt, ultimately committing a turnover, and Victor Hampton returned a punt for minus-four yards.

    Shon Carson managed a 13-yard kickoff return and fumbled his other attempt.

    The return units, quite simply, were all sorts of ugly.

Turnovers Nearly Cost the Gamecocks a Win

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    Thompson essentially threw a pick-six, and Vandy scored a one-yard touchdown.

    Carson fumbled a kickoff, and the Commodores found the end zone on the next play.

    A line-drive punt ricocheted off Gurley's heel, but South Carolina's defense came up with a clutch the 1-yard line.

    The Gamecocks committed three turnovers, allowed 14 points off turnovers and were one yard away from letting Vanderbilt cut a once-28-point deficit to a mere three-point gap.

    Now, the key word here is "nearly," but "nearly" was really, really scary.

Ground Attack Decided the Game

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    Soon after Ellington's touchdown, the Gamecocks slowly started to lose momentum throughout the rest of the game.

    As mentioned earlier, Vanderbilt scored 25 of the game's final 32 points. South Carolina's defense made a clutch interception at the 1-yard line with 8:41 remaining in the game.

    Shaw, Davis and Brandon Wilds combined for a 17-play drive—all runs—and wasted seven minutes and 46 seconds of the clock. Vanderbilt simply didn't have enough time left to score twice.

    When the Gamecocks needed the game to just end, the offensive line and runners stepped up in a big way.

South Carolina Avoided an 0-2 SEC Start

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    The Gamecocks could not afford to begin the SEC season with two losses, and Spurrier's team made enough plays to avoid the 0-2 mark.

    South Carolina now heads into a bye week before heading to a potentially dangerous, yet still nonconference Central Florida squad.

    The next four SEC games on the schedule are Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri, so the Gamecocks are poised to go an ever-important 5-1 in conference play before November brings matchups with Mississippi State and Florida.