Gamecocks survive Vanderbilt 17-13
ASHVILLE, Tenn. Junior running back Marcus Lattimore rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns to lead ninth-ranked South Carolina to a 17-13 victory over Vanderbilt on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams at Vanderbilt Stadium.
With the Gamecocks trailing 13-10 early in the fourth quarter, Lattimore scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run with 11:25 remaining. The Gamecock defense then buckled down and allowed just 17 yards the rest of the way to seal the win.
South Carolina (1-0, 1-0 SEC) has now won 13 straight season openers and nine straight games against SEC Eastern Division opponents, while Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier improves to 22-1 all-time in season openers. The Commodores (0-1, 0-1) have dropped four straight games to South Carolina.
In his first game back after suffering a knee injury at Mississippi State last season, Lattimore averaged 4.8 yards on 23 carries and led the Gamecocks with three receptions for 21 yards.
Despite missing several series with a shoulder injury, junior quarterback Connor Shaw helped guide the Gamecocks back into the game, connecting on 7-of-11 passes for 67 yards and rushing 14 times for 92 yards.
The Gamecock defense came up big early after two turnovers by the offense. With Vanderbilt facing a third and goal at the Carolina 5, linebacker Shaq Wilson stepped in front of a Jordan Rogers pass and returned the interception 37 yards to the Commodore 49.
Wilson's interception provided a spark for the offense, as Shaw ran for a 20-yard gain on Carolina's first play after the turnover. Lattimore then took care of the rest as he busted loose for a 29-yard touchdown run, breaking a tackle on his way to the end zone. The touchdown moved Lattimore into sole possession of third place in career rushing touchdown at Carolina with 28. Adam Yates tacked on the extra point to give the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead at the 4:55 mark of the first quarter.
Yates drilled his first career field goal attempt from 20 yards out with 11:44 left in the half to push South Carolina's lead to 10-0.
Vanderbilt fought back to tie the game before halftime, as Rogers connected with Jordan Matthews for a 78-yard scoring strike to make it a 10-7 ballgame with 10:37 remaining.
After holding the Gamecocks to a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, the Commodores drove deep into Carolina territory before Carey Spear made a 25-yard field goal to knot the game at 10-10.
Shaw left the game late in the second quarter with a shoulder injury after rushing for a 2-yard gain on first down, as the teams ran out the clock and headed into the locker room tied at 10.
Vanderbilt took its first lead of the contest in the third quarter on a 44-yard field goal by Spear that gave the Commodores a 13-10 advantage with 6:02 on the clock.
But Shaw re-entered the game to help lead the Gamecocks to victory. After the offense stalled in his first series back, he guided Carolina on a nine-play, 66-yard scoring drive in his second series, with Lattimore scoring from 1 yard out to give the Gamecocks the lead for good.
Wilson and sophomore defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles led the Carolina defense with eight tackles apiece, as the Gamecocks surrendered 276 yards. Carolina also had five sacks on the night.
Rogers led the way for Vanderbilt, completing 13-of-23 passes for 214 yards and one touchdown.
The Gamecocks will return to action on Saturday, Sept. 8 as they host East Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium. Kickoff is set for 12:21 p.m., and the game will be televised on the SEC Network. South Carolina won a shootout with the Pirates last season, 56-37.