No. 9 South Carolina 17, Vanderbilt 13

The ninth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks turned in one of the

ugliest passing nights for a Steve Spurrier-coached team to open up

the 2012 season. Good thing the old ball coach had Marcus Lattimore

back and Connor Shaw turning in a gutsy performance with a bruised

shoulder.

Lattimore ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns, while Shaw added

92 yards to help South Carolina rally and pull out a 17-13 win

Thursday night over Vanderbilt.

”Our guys didn’t give up and I think we’re in pretty good

shape, but man I hope we can play a lot better offensively next

week,” Spurrier said.

South Carolina came in with high expectations after going 11-2

last season and finishing second in the Southeastern Conference’s

Eastern Division. Then Lattimore fumbled on his first carry, and

Shaw had his first pass intercepted to go with a penalty in the

Gamecocks’ first four plays of the night. It got worse when Shaw

took a helmet on the back of his right, throwing shoulder late in

the first half.

He went to the locker room where he said he took ”some

medicine.” The junior quarterback missed the first two series of

the second half before returning and didn’t get South Carolina

across midfield until the go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter.

”It wasn’t too pretty, but we’ll take the win, especially

against Vanderbilt in this place,” Shaw said.

Spurrier said Shaw’s shoulder was bruised but not dislocated.

Spurrier said Shaw even assured him he could pick up a first down

inside the final minute to make sure the Gamecocks ran out the

clock to seal the win.

”He’ll be sore for a while. I think he should be OK. Had some

nice runs there. He was hurting a little bit. That’s what it

took,” Spurrier said.

The Commodores came up with three sacks and forced two

turnovers, and they outgained South Carolina 276-272 in total

offense. But South Carolina had a 115-17 advantage in the fourth

quarter, and the Commodores turned it over on downs for the final

time with 1:47 left when Jordan Matthews couldn’t handle a

fourth-down pass from Jordan Rodgers. Gamecocks defensive back D.J.

Swearinger appeared to grab Matthews’ arm before the ball

arrived.

It’s yet another botched call by officials for Vandy fans to put

into their long list of grievances.

”You did know the SEC just came out with very clear rules about

talking about the officials and what happens after games,”

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said when asked about the play.

”`Trying to get me fined?”

Matthews refused to comment on the no-call, though he waved his

arms looking for a flag.

”I’ve got to get more open,” Matthews said.

The Gamecocks also got five sacks, and Shaq Wilson came up with

an interception to end a Vandy scoring threat that set up

Lattimore’s first TD, a 29-yarder in the first quarter.

”I hated that happening, but I just had to forget about it,”

Lattimore said of his fumble. ”After a few runs, I started to feel

like myself again.”

Spurrier used three different quarterbacks, including senior

Seth Strickland, who’s only on the depth chart as a holder, when

Shaw shuffled to the sideline holding his right arm close to his

side to protect his aching shoulder. South Carolina finished with

67 yards passing, a poor showing for a Spurrier-coached team.

”We couldn’t get much passing, so we had to at least try to run

and get a touchdown or two and let our defense play,” Spurrier

said. ”And fortunately, our defense held them to 13.”

Even with the ugly start, South Carolina jumped out to a 10-0

lead. Vanderbilt came right back with 10 straight points to tie it

up going into halftime.

Rodgers threw a 78-yard TD pass to Matthews in the second

quarter as Vanderbilt scored 10 straight points. Carey Spear put

Vanderbilt ahead 13-10 with his second field goal, a 44-yarder,

with 6:51 left in the third quarter.

Shaw, who now has won nine of his 10 starts, came back into the

game with 6:02 left in the third quarter. He went three-and-out

himself before putting together the game-winning drive. The big

play was a 20-yard pass to Justice Cunningham. Officials flagged

Vanderbilt cornerback Andre Hal for hitting a defenseless receiver

above the shoulder, knocking Cunningham’s helmet off.

”We had one of the worst passing nights we’ve ever had, but

Justice Cunningham made a huge catch and got a penalty on top of

it,” Spurrier said.

Hal tried to make up for the penalty with a 52-yard kickoff

return, but the Commodores punted it back after going three-and-out

to lose momentum.