Much of Will Muschamp’s first game as South Carolina’s head coach didn’t look pretty, but the ending looked perfect for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina beat Vanderbilt 13-10 thanks to a career-long 55-yard field goal by senior place-kicker Elliott Fry with 35 seconds left in the game. A crowd of 30,304 fans, many of them Gamecock fans, at Vanderbilt Stadium watched USC start the season 1-0 and the Commodores fall to 0-1. The Gamecocks trailed for the first 52 minutes and 30 seconds but tied the game on an 8-yard run by sophomore wide receiver Deebo Samuel that tied the game at 10-10 with 7:30 left in the fourth quarter.
Senior Perry Orth started the game at quarterback and played the first two series, which totaled only one first down. Freshman Brandon McIlwain took over on the third series and played the remaining four series in the first half. McIlwain’s mobility allowed the Gamecocks to move the ball a little better, but McIlwain didn’t lead any scoring drives and had one fumble.
Orth played every series of the second half and finished with 152 yards passing to McIlwain’s 35.
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Vanderbilt built a 10-0 lead on the strength of a 67-yard touchdown drive and a13-yard field goal drive in the first half. The Gamecocks first score came on a 48-yard field goal from Elliott Fry with 6:16 left in the third quarter to cut the Commodores lead to 10-3.
Vanderbilt, which has now lost eight straight to the Gamecocks, had a chance to take the lead late in the game but junior place-kicker Tommy Openshaw missed a 45-yard field goal with 3:44 left in the game.
Star of the game: True freshman wide receiver Bryan Edwards was an offensive highlight on a night when there were few for either team. The Conway native made a pari of leaping catches and finished as the Gamecocks leading receiver with eight catches for 101 yards.
Play of the game: Edwards made a dazzling, leaping catch for a 33-yard gain to convert a third-and-7 from South Carolina’s 8-yard line. The drive didn’t end with points, but it allowed the Gamecocks to change the field position and added to Edwards’ impressive night.
Stat of the game: The Gamecocks had 88 yards of total offense in the first half but 221 in the second half.
Shuffling Up Front: The Gamecocks starting offensive line didn’t survive intact to see the second series of the game. Donnell Stanley started at right guard but did not come out for the second series and was seen being taken to the team’s locker room in the first half. With Stanley out, starting right tackle D.J. Park moved to right guard, and sophomore Blake Camper came in at right tackle. Starting center Cory Helms was called for holding twice in the first half. Alan Knott, who started at center last year, didn’t make the trip to Vanderbilt due to a one-game suspension.
Running Back Rotation: As expected, redshirt freshman A.J. Turner started at tailback. Junior David Williams, the team’s learning returning rusher at the position, entered the game on the third series. In the first half, Turner had three carries for 12 yards, while Williams had one carry for 1 yard. McIlwain had the most carries in the first half with seven for 29 yards.
Shaky Start: South Carolina started the game inauspiciously. The Gamecocks had three penalties called on offensive linemen (Cory Helms for holding, Donnell Stanley for false start, D.J. Park for ineligible man downfield) and dropped pass by Jamari Smith on their first drive. USC faced first-and-20 twice and punted after eight plays in which it gained 26 yards. After the Gamecocks stopped Vanderbilt, Deebo Samuel fumbled away the Commodores punt, setting up a 36-yard field goal for Vanderbilt. The Commodores’ only first down on their scoring drive was thanks to a 15-yard pass interference penalty against Rashad Fenton.
Who: South Carolina at Mississippi State
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10
Where: Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, Miss
TV: ESPN or ESPN2