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South Carolina Gamecocks 35, Vanderbilt Commodores 25: Surviving Vanderbilt. Again

It hasn't been easy in recent years for South Carolina to beat Vanderbilt. As Saturday's closer-than-it-should-have-been win showed

Streeter Lecka

The game Saturday between the Gamecocks and the Commodores might have been a contest between the New Carolina and the New Vanderbilt, but in some ways it felt like the Vanderbilt games that South Carolina vans and others have gotten used to: A statistically dominating effort that somehow ends up in a tooth-and-nail fight that you simply have to survive. Unfortunately for Vanderbilt fans, it also turned out with a familiar result.

South Carolina more than doubled up Vanderbilt in yardage, 579-268. The Gamecocks had more than twice as many first downs, 31 to the Commodores' 14. South Carolina was 13-for-20 on third- and fourth-down conversions; Vanderbilt was 5-for-15, and 2-for-12 if you look only at third-down conversions. And somehow, the Gamecocks ended up sweating out the last 14 minutes of the game with a 10-point lead and needing an interception at the goal line to keep things from getting any closer.

Perhaps there is a bit of the New Vanderbilt in that. After all, the Old Vanderbilt likely would have folded when the Gamecocks took a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter, despite the Commodores' reputation for making what should be better teams hold on for dear life. And certainly when the Gamecocks responded to Vanderbilt's 10 unanswered points at the end of the first half with a quick touchdown to open the third quarter, you had to think that Vanderbilt was done for. Someone needed to tell the Commodores that. Instead, they rallied back with 15 more unanswered points.

Jadeveon Clowney would sack Austyn Carta-Samuels to force a fumble and end a promising Vanderbilt drive deep in South Carolina territory? With the help of two Gamecocks penalties, the Commodores would force a three-and-out, then score on the ensuing drive. Then, when Shon Carson fumbled the kickoff return, Vanderbilt would quickly cash in on that turnover and add a two-point conversion for good measure, slicing the lead to 10 points with almost 14 minutes left.

But South Carolina remembered who it was, or at least who it hopes to be, when Jimmy Legree picked off a pass from Carta-Samuels two drives later on the goal line. The Gamecocks then went on a 17-play drive that produced no points but melted nearly eight minutes off the clock and essentially removed the threat. South Carolina headed into its bye week with another harder-than-it-should-have-been win against Vanderbilt, and the Commodores returned home to Nashville having once again come so close despite everything they faced. The more things change in the SEC East, the more they stay about the same.