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South Carolina Gamecocks 48, Vanderbilt Commodores 34: Is Winning All That Matters?

The Gamecocks have played poorly in Nashville before, but this might have been their worst showing in a while

Frederick Breedon

If you expected South Carolina to dominate Vanderbilt in this game, even as bad as Vanderbilt has been this season, then you haven't followed South Carolina football for very long. When the Gamecocks travel to Nashville to play even the worst Vanderbilt teams, they play a horrific game. In 2010, the Robbie Caldwell Era, the South Carolina team that eventually won an SEC East title beat the Commodores 21-7. That's just the way the Gamecocks roll in Nashville.

It almost looked like it would end with an even worse conclusion for South Carolina this time. A 91-yard kickoff return and 60-yard touchdown drive gave the Commodores a 14-0 lead, and some Gamecocks fans undoubtedly had flashbacks to 2007, when Vanderbilt came to Columbia and built up an early lead to pull the upset and derail what looked like Steve Spurrier's best season.

But South Carolina responded with 24 unanswered points, including a 53-yard interception return from Brison Williams for a touchdown to end the first half and a 75-yard drive to begin the second. Darrius Sims promptly returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, and the Commodores were still in the game. Where they would remain most of the night, until a pair of late scores finally gave South Carolina some breathing room.

You can make the case that it really wasn't that bad an outing for the South Carolina defense. Two of the Commodores' four touchdowns came from kickoff returns. Five of Vanderbilt's nine drives (aside from a clock killer at the end of the first half) covered less than 40 yards. But that's mostly on the surface. Looking deeper, a Vanderbilt team that has struggled to move the ball against nearly anyone this year had 379 yards of total offense and averaged 8.9 yards per passing attempt and 5.2 yards a run -- all season highs for a team that's already played Temple and UMass.

So South Carolina better hope that this was just another one of those games against Vanderbilt. They still have a share of the lead in the SEC East. But there are still tricky games on schedule, and another performance like Saturday's might not just knock the Gamecocks out of the driver's seat. It could knock them completely out of the car.