Vandy loses lead, game 17-13 to No. 9 S. Carolina

A missed call by officials at a crucial moment, a turnover

ending a scoring opportunity and a field-goal attempt that fell

well short. Pick an issue.

Vanderbilt found plenty of reasons it failed yet again to pull

off a big upset. The Commodores allowed No. 9 South Carolina to

rally for a 17-13 victory Thursday night in the season opener for

the Southeastern Conference rivals.

”We’re trying to create a culture of winning,” Vanderbilt

coach James Franklin said. ”When you do that, guys find a way to

get the job done. Tonight, we had a top-10 opponent down to the

last second and had a chance to win.”

Vanderbilt didn’t have the sellout crowd Franklin wanted to

build off the momentum of the program’s fifth bowl berth to wrap up

his first season. But most of the 38,393 who did turn out were

wearing black as part of a ”blackout.” The Commodores came up

with three sacks and forced two turnovers, and they outgained South

Carolina 276-272 in total offense.

The Commodores scored 13 straight points, taking a 13-10 lead on

Carey Spear’s 44-yard field goal with 6:02 left in the third

quarter. But Franklin decided to let Spear attempt a 51-yarder late

in the third that fell well short of the crossbar rather than go

for it on fourth-and-3 from the Gamecocks 34.

The offense sputtered after that as South Carolina had a 115-17

advantage on offense in the fourth quarter on just two drives, the

last ending with 1:47 left when Gamecocks defensive back D.J.

Swearinger grabbed Jordan Matthews’ left elbow just before the ball

arrived on a pass from Jordan Rodgers. Matthews looked around for a

flag, and the play set off angry Vandy fans who added this to a

long list of perceived missed calls by officials.

”I don’t have a whole lot of patience,” Franklin said.

Marcus Lattimore ran for two touchdowns and 110 yards in his

first game back after tearing his left ACL, and Connor Shaw ran for

92 yards while playing the second half with an injured shoulder in

helping South Carolina win.

But Shaw bruised his right, throwing shoulder late in the first

half and missed the first two series of the third quarter before

returning. The junior drove the Gamecocks for the go-ahead

touchdown and ran 12 yards to the Vandy 1 before rolling in pain in

the end zone.

Lattimore scored the go-ahead TD on a 1-yard run with 11:25 to

go.

”They gave me some medicine,” Shaw said. ”I got a ball and

just started working out, I didn’t want it to get stiff on me. It

was painful, but I got through it.”

Spurrier called Shaw’s performance gutsy after taking a helmet

to the shoulder blade that left his throwing shoulder 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.

Lattimore played for the first time since tearing his left

anterior cruciate ligament last October. 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.

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 to tie up the

Gamecocks. Carey Spear put Vanderbilt ahead 13-10 with his second

field goal, a 44-yarder, with 6:51 left in the third quarter.

Shaw was hurt at the end of a 2-yard run down to the Vanderbilt

46 late in the first half. He went to the sideline before going to

the locker room where he was examined. Dylan Thompson finished the

half and oversaw two three-and-outs to start the second half before

Shaw ran back to the Gamecocks’ sideline.

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 the Cunningham’s helmet off.

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.