Top-10 ranking spoiled; Gamecocks have not scored TD in six quarters
By Joseph Person The State Published: October 21, 2007
After it was over, after Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson received his ice-water baptism and the Commodores
ruined a sunny, State Fair Saturday for about 79,000 South Carolina fans, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier tried to get his
players to stay on the field for the alma mater.
A couple turned around to face the marching band, but most kept heading
for the Williams-Brice Stadium tunnel. The day could not end soon enough for the Gamecocks.
No. 6 USC became the latest
top-10 team to tumble, falling 17-6 to a Vandy squad that abused the Gamecocks’ offensive line to notch the school’s
biggest victory in 70 years.
The loss ended any national championship hopes the Gamecocks harbored and put a damper
on the season, at least according to junior receiver Kenny McKinley.
Though USC (6-2, 3-2 in SEC) is one of five Eastern
Division teams with two losses, McKinley could not shake the idea of the Gamecocks losing to Vanderbilt for the first time
“I don’t know about anybody else, but it’s pretty embarrassing to me,” McKinley
said. “They spoiled our season. We were up to No. 6, ready to get into the top five, and they spoiled it.”
strong safety Emanuel Cook also could not get his head around losing to Vandy.
“That’s the sorriest team
in the SEC we lost to,” Cook said. “We should’ve won that game.”
Try telling that to Vanderbilt
(4-3, 2-3), which used an aggressive pass rush and a strong performance by quarterback Mackenzi Adams to knock off its highest-ranked
opponent since a 7-6 win against No. 6 LSU in 1937. The Commodores have never beaten a team ranked higher than sixth.
confounded the Gamecocks with its zone blitz, tying a school record with seven sacks — the most USC has allowed in three
seasons under Steve Spurrier. USC linemen combined for five false-start penalties.
“Amazingly, the eighth game
of the season we had five false starts of the offensive linemen,” Spurrier said. “It sort of looked like one of
the first games all year. We just didn’t get ready to play for some reason.”
The Gamecocks were 1-for-12
on third down — matching their mark at North Carolina last week — and have gone six quarters without a touchdown.
who lost to Vandy for the first time in 15 games, tried juggling his quarterbacks to no avail. Starter Chris Smelley and fifth-year
senior Blake Mitchell combined to complete 23 of 43 passes for 256 yards when they were not getting planted in the Williams-Brice
Smelley had two of USC’s three interceptions, including a crippling, first-down pick after the
Gamecocks drove to the Vanderbilt 13-yard line trailing by 11 early in the second half.
Johnson, the Columbia native
who coached at Clemson and Furman, said the Commodores’ gameplan was to pressure whichever USC quarterback was in the
“We were aggressive and probably brought five guys 70 percent of the time, at least five,” Johnson
said. “We tried not to give their quarterbacks a chance to sit there and read.”
Smelley said the Gamecocks
had the right blocking schemes called for the Vandy blitzes, but failed to execute up front.
“We had a gameplan
for it,” said Smelley, who was 14-of-24 for 154 yards. “We just couldn’t step up and block them.”
Vandy’s constant pressure, Spurrier said it did not matter who was under center. Mitchell, who played for the first
time in a month, was 9-of-18 for 102 yards.
USC had 22 rushes for 26 yards, a total that includes the minus-39 yards
in sacks and other negative-yardage plays.
“I think maybe we just got to come to the belief that we need to throw
the ball 15, 20 times,” Spurrier said. “I think ... that’s our only chance to win.”
first start, Adams rushed for 84 yards, tossed a pair of touchdown passes and finished with 207 yards of total offense.
players looked like they had not received their wake-up calls before the 12:30 p.m. start, staggering into a 17-0 hole after
the first quarter.
The Gamecocks’ first two possessions ended with turnovers — a Smelley interception and
a fumble by Cory Boyd — that Vanderbilt cashed in for scores. Vandy began five consecutive drives in USC territory and
the Commodores’ average starting field position in the first half was the Gamecocks’ 49-yard line.
Johnson hung around midfield hugging players and celebrating with his former Eau Claire coaches, Spurrier listened to the
alma mater before following his players into the locker room.
“This should not be a shock to our team. We’ve
been scraping by,” Spurrier said. “I never said we was a great team.”