The Vanderbilt Commodores and South Carolina Gamecocks got the 2012 college football season off to an uninspiring start Thursday night. The ‘Cocks pulled out the 17-13 win behind a stellar performance from the defense and doing just enough on the ground to wear down Vandy in the fourth quarter.
Anyone without a rooting interest probably won’t recall much from this forgettable game. If South Carolina goes on to challenge for a conference championship, however, the Sandstormers will undoubtedly remember a gutty performance by quarterback Connor Shaw. Despite suffering a shoulder injury in the first half, the junior signal caller returned to the game in the second half and helped his team play keepaway late to seal the victory.
The game also signified workhorse tailback Marcus Lattimore’s return to the field after suffering a major knee injury last year. Steve Spurrier picked up right where he left off with his star runner in 2011, as Lattimore toted the rock 23 times for 109 yards and 2 TDs on the evening. Orchestrating Spurrier’s zone-read offense, Shaw carried the ball a painful 14 times himself for 92 yards.
To their credit, the ‘Dores are finally starting to look like a legit SEC football team under dynamic head coach James Franklin. Long a punching bag, the ‘Dores actually fought back Thursday night. Aside from roughing up Shaw, the Vanderbilt defense also laid plenty of licks on his teammates, including one that forced a fumble by Lattimore.
No one will mistake Jordan Rodgers for his Super Bowl-winning brother, but the Vanderbilt QB stood in against South Carolina’s ferocious pass rush and completed 13 of 23 passes in the game for 214 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Vandy needed it, as the Gamecocks bottled up the ground attack, limiting the ‘Dores to fewer than 2 yards per carry.
Whatever positives Vanderbilt can take from the performance, it doesn’t change the end result. Going on the road for a division game to start the year is a tall task. The Ol’ Ball Coach and his team scraped by. For the first game of the season, that’s good enough.