For the 13th time in the 21st century, the South Carolina Gamecocks are going bowling.
With Saturday’s 34-27 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores, the Gamecocks assured themselves a postseason berth for the second time in the Will Muschamp Era. The victory also gave them their sixth win of the season, which already matches 2016’s total. Barring total disaster, the Gamecocks will exceed their record of 6-7 from last season.
South Carolina’s run game was ferocious against the Commodore defense. The team rushed for 212 yards while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. That’s pretty dang good. It’s perhaps even better that A.J. Turner himself garnered 121 yards on only 15 carries. That’s a YPC clip of !! 8.1 !! Turner also racked up a TD, one of three scored on the ground. Quarterback Jake Bentley picked up the other two.
What We Learned
The Gamecock run defense was terrific again
Coming into this weekend, South Carolina’s run defense ranked as one of the top units in the SEC. They rank 25th in Rushing S&P+ defense and 32nd in Rush Success Rate. Their IsoPPP of 0.85 ranks 40th in the country, so they prevent big plays as well.
Considering they only allowed 4.7 yards per carry against Vandy, and no rushers to hit over 50 yards, that continued to be a trend on Saturday evening. South Carolina picked up only one TFL all game, but they were still able to keep the Commodore rushers in check. Ralph Webb averaged 5.2 yards per carry, but only ran the ball six times.
This is a win for SC’s run defense, to be sure. Bigger tests loom, namely the Georgia Bulldogs, but this will give them quite a bit of confidence.
A.J. Turner can step up when needed
South Carolina’s search for an offensive weapon without Deebo Samuel came up with an answer, if only for a day. Turner was explosive and dynamic in Columbia, proving to be a force when he touched the ball. His longest run was just 27 yards, butt he still was a big factor any time he had a touch. That type of threat may help going away without Samuel in the lineup. It certainly did on Saturday.
A heavy test looms next week, but 8-9 wins is still in range
South Carolina has to go between the hedges to face rival UGA next week. Assuming they get dump trucked, as the ‘Dawgs have done to many, it won’t spell the end for optimism in Columbia. The Gamecocks have a home matchup against the Florida Gators as well as the Wofford Terriers to go in November. Given UF’s issues right now, it’s certainly a winnable game.
They’ll host the Clemson Tigers at the end of the season. That might be a longshot, but an eight-win season heading into a bowl is certainly a step in the right direction. The possibility of upping it to nine is in sight, too. That’s certainly something to look forward to, if you’re SC.
As for Vandy...
Things obviously haven’t been the same since the 59-0 drubbing against the Alabama Crimson Tide. They’ve lost their last five, and early optimism of making a bowl game now seems to be in doubt. They have Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Kentucky Wildcats and Missouri Tigers all at home the next three weeks before a road trip to face the Tennessee Volunteers.
The wins, if they’re going to happen, are going to have to be strung together in bunches. Otherwise, this could certainly prove to be a disappointing end to a strong start to the year.