CFN Instant Analysis
South Carolina 17, Vandy 13
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Sure, South Carolina was able to win, and getting by an experienced and difficult Vanderbilt team was supposed to be a fight, but still, this hardly looked like a sleeper team in the national title chase.
Connor Shaw connected on 7-of-11 passes and got past an early pick, but he didn’t get anything going down the field and got beaten up. He was peeling himself off the ground time and again, and while he ran well, he suffered a shoulder injury and looked like he had to fight to keep going. And it’s just the first game of the season – it’s not like he’s going to get healthier as the season goes on.
Marcus Lattimore ran for 109 yards and two scores on 23 carries, and he was good at reading the hole and tearing off some key runs, but he didn’t quite have the elite cutting ability and quickness he had before his injury. Yes, he can obviously play and be one of the best players on the field, but no matter what anyone likes to say, it really does take at least a year to get past a knee injury like he suffered. And it’s just the first game of the season – it’s not like he’s going to get much rest.
It’s not time to push the South Carolina panic button yet by any means. It’s the SEC, so no matter what, the goal will be to win and move on, but this was hardly the coming out party that’s going to make anyone believe this is the year for something special.
South Carolina endured not one but two very close calls on opening night, darn near losing a game to Vanderbilt and QB Connor Shaw to an injury. The Gamecocks survived, and their hurler returned in the second half to finish the game, but the program clearly has a lot of work to do before looking as if it truly belongs in the top 10.
Yeah, the D looks terrific again, and Marcus Lattimore will continue to shake off the rust after sitting out nearly an entire year. The ‘Cocks, though, will not win the SEC East unless they can achieve a higher level of offensive balance. Even before Shaw got dinged, the passing game wasn’t clicking, a bad omen for the balance of the season. It’s still a little hard to accept that Steve Spurrier has to develop a capable throwing quarterback in Columbia, struggling over the years with the likes of Blake Mitchell, Chris Smelley, Stephen Garcia and now Shaw. Now, the junior did display a fair amount of mobility, which Spurrier will feed off of throughout the year. However, as plucky as Vandy was on Thursday, South Carolina will face far tougher competition as the year evolves and the quest for divisional supremacy comes into focus.
The good news for USC is that it survived … on the road … in a league game. The concern is that this team might already look as if it’s been overrated as 2012 begins.
By Matt Zemek
It took only one game – no preseason in college football, baby! – for this sport's deficient game administration and review policies to be exposed for the mockery of a travesty of a sham they represent.
I've been saying for years – at least since 2007 if not longer – that calls or non-calls of pass interference and other penalties should be subject to review. Vanderbilt was plainly hosed on the fourth-down pass Jordan Matthews didn't catch… because his arm was grabbed a clear second or two before the ball arrived.
This isn't to say that Vanderbilt didn't have a role in bringing about its own demise. The Commodores should have scored more points, and they shouldn't have given South Carolina a great drive start that led to seven Gamecock points in the first quarter. Interceptions thrown in the red zone and returned roughly half the length of the field will do that. Vanderbilt should have led this game by more than three points going into the fourth quarter. Missed opportunities frequently catch up with teams at crunch time, and this contest was no exception.
Yet, Vandy's shortcomings and mistakes don't remove the need (or the urgency of said need) for college football to get its gosh-darn act together.
There are few more important calls made in any football game than pass interference (flag or no flag). Personal fouls and many other kinds of penalties or calls are not subject to review, despite the fact that they carry so much weight in what is a BILLION-DOLLAR INDUSTRY. This shouldn't be a discussion. It shouldn't be a close call. Pass interference calls and non-calls should be subject to review.
By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb
In the aftermath of the South Carolina vs. Vandy affair, all anyone will want to talk about is the blown pass interference call late in the game that ended Vandy’s hope for the “upset”. Simply an egregious no-call. Or perhaps they’ll talk about Connor Shaw's truly gutsy performance…even if the “stats weren't there” for the entire game (67 yards, no touchdowns and a pick). Or more legitimately, just how bad this South Carolina secondary really is.
However, none of these are why the Commodores start 2012 with one in the loss column.
Vanderbilt lost this game in the fourth quarter when the Dores were unable or unwilling to stop South Carolina's ground attack. With a clearly injured Gamecock quarterback struggling, South Carolina ran the ball 10 times to only 5 passes, with nearly a third of its rushing yards coming in this final frame. In so doing, SC controlled more than two thirds of the fourth quarter clock.
Vandy had only two series in the all important fourth quarter: the first a three and out consuming 1:21 off the clock, and the second the six play, 3:21 drive that ended in the aforementioned interference no-call.
When you knew Carolina was going to run the ball, when I knew Carolina was going to run the ball, when Carolina KNEW that everyone knew it was going to run the ball, Vandy was unwilling to sell out to stop the run. Worst yet was Vandy defensive coordinator Bob Shoop continuing to play man coverage, allowing his defensive backs to be lured out of run support. Shoop is a smart guy, a Yale grad, but this was a crucial mistake.
The Commodores outplayed SC for three quarters, but poor coaching in the fourth cost Vandy its first home upset of a “top 10” team since beating #8 Florida in 1974. Although we use the term top 10 in its loosest form for this Gamecocks team.
You let another one get away, Franklin.
By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
- It’s the first game of the year, so maybe there’s some improvement pending, but what did we just watch? This game was a lot like a low-budget movie you just can’t pull yourself away from. It wasn’t high quality entertainment, in fact--it was quite sloppy--but you just HAD to stay for the ending because of the time invested.
- South Carolina has a LONG way to go if anyone is going to consider them to be a top-ten team.
- Speaking of which, does anyone else wonder why Steve Spurrier can’t seem to recruit a bona fide superstar at quarterback in Columbia? They grew on orange trees back in his old stompin’ grounds in Gainesville.
- Was this a case of Vanderbilt being better than advertised, or is South Carolina just not the SEC power that they are supposed to be? My money is on the latter.
- You couldn’t help but feel like you were watching a movie you’d seen before with Vanderbilt. Close call, but not able to close things out. In the end, it didn’t disappoint.
- Hey Spurrier--remember Marcus Lattimore? He’s pretty good. He’s on your team and your quarterback’s arm is hanging out of socket. Sounds like a good plan to utilize his talents--or not. Let’s hope a lesson has been learned for the ‘Ole Ball Coach.
- It’s hard to be a fan of the new rules after one night of observation. Who else can see players practicing ripping key opposing players helmets off so they have to sit out a play? And so much for the momentum of a big kick return. The term touch-back is going to sound a lot like nails down a chalkboard this year.
By Terry Johnson
Please Follow me on Twitter @TPJCollFootball
- After tonight's game, there should be no question that South Carolina does not belong in the Top 10. Yes, Vanderbilt is a quality opponent that will cause problems for a lot of teams. However, the Gamecocks were actually in danger of losing this game until a costly Commodore personal foul set up the go-ahead TD.
- On the other hand, Vandy looks like a team heading to a bowl game this season. The Commodores outplayed USC for most of the second and third quarters and were clearly the more physical team. Unfortunately, they were one fourth-down conversion - or a pass interference call - away from pulling out a victory.
- Looking on the bright side, at least James Franklin's team "doesn't have any slow dudes like they used to."
- Rest easy, South Carolina fans - Marcus Lattimore's ACL is just fine. He had 25 touches in the game, and led the team in both rushing and receiving. He also had a key block on a QB draw for the deciding touchdown.
- Connor Shaw must remain healthy for the entire season. The offense looked completely lost without him, especially in the passing game. There's a reason why he's 9-1 as a starter.
- Despite Lattimore's heroics, the game ball has to go to Jordan Matthews, who torched the USC secondary all night long, including an electrifying 78-yard TD that put Vanderbilt in control of the game.
- Aside from the secondary, South Carolina's defense looked every bit as good as last season's unit, sacking Jordan Rodgers 5 times, and recording 11 tackles for a loss. If the Gamecocks plan to win the East, they will need a performance like this every week.