VU Takes Down No. 6 South Carolina

Oct. 20, 2007

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson had no
doubt how his Commodores would react, even if many others did,
following last week's loss to Georgia.


Vanderbilt's defense was sensational, holding South Carolina without a touchdown on 282 yards of offense. The Commodores also tied a school record with seven sacks, intercepted three passes and forced three fumbles, recovering one. At one point in the second quarter, VU had out gained USC 169-35.

Vanderbilt's 17-6 win over No. 6 South Carolina tied for the highest-ranked opponent VU has ever defeated. The Commodores defeated No. 6 LSU 7-6 in Nashville in 1937. Prior to today, Vanderbilt's last win over a top 10 team was over No. 8 Auburn in the 1955 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. The win was VU's first true road win over a top 10 opponent. Vanderbilt's last regular season win over a top 10 opponent was a 24-10 win in Nashville over No. 8 Florida in 1974.

The win ended a seven-game skid against South Carolina and put an end to Steve Spurrier's perfect 14-0 career record against Vanderbilt. The Commodores last win over South Carolina was an 11-10 victory in Columbia in 1999.

Vanderbilt began the game with excellent field position, starting in South Carolina territory on five of its first six possessions. In fact, VU's average starting position through its first six possessions was USC's 40-yard line. In the first quarter, the Commodores started drives at the Gamecocks' 24, 24, 43, 43 and 45. The only time Vanderbilt did not begin in USC's territory was on the opening kickoff when D.J. Moore returned the kickoff to VU's 40.

Junior wide receiver Earl Bennett hauled in two catches for 24 yards against South Carolina to move within two catches of becoming the SEC's all-time leader in career receptions. He is also just 517 yards from becoming the league's all-time leader in receiving yardage.

"It made us a little angry," he said.

Vanderbilt (4-3, 2-3 SEC) took it out on coach Steve Spurrier and No. 6 South Carolina on Saturday with a 17-6 victory.

The win was Vanderbilt's first over Spurrier in 15 tries and the highest-ranked opponent it defeated in more than 70 years.

"I'm sure that people thought we'd fold in the second half here" Johnson said. "But we didn't. We came back and played great, maybe better than in the first half."

"That's a misconception about Vanderbilt," Johnson said. "They do everything they possibly can to try and win."

This time, it was two touchdown passes from Mackenzi Adams, two interceptions by D.J. Moore, and a defense that was so stout it didn't make a difference which quarterback Spurrier called on.

The Gamecocks (6-2, 3-2) became the season's latest Top 10 victim to lose.

Little went right for South Carolina. The offense was held to 195 yards. Starter Chris Smelley threw two interceptions, and Vanderbilt registered seven sacks.

"This should not be a shock to our team," Spurrier said. "This should not be a shock. Hopefully, it will straighten them out."

When it was over, Vanderbilt's players rushed to the section of Commodore fans, jumping and pumping their fists in celebration.

The Commodores hadn't beaten a team ranked as highly since topping No. 6 LSU, 7-6, in 1937.

The win was extra sweet for Johnson, a Columbia native. On hand to watch were his friend and former boss at Furman, ex-North Carolina State coach Dick Sheridan, along with some of Johnson's Eau Claire High coaches.

"I'm not going to be able to celebrate with them though," Johnson said with a grin.

"I've been here three years and I've been through a lot of tough, close losses and most of the times, you find us on Sunday bouncing back," Adams said.

Vanderbilt had lost seven straight to South Carolina since last winning in 1999.

Spurrier was 2-0 against the Commodores at Duke, then continued the winning at Florida (10-0) and South Carolina (2-0).

Earlier this season, Spurrier had run his streak over Kentucky to 15-0, but the Gamecocks couldn't extend this one.

"I don't think we were too concerned about individuals. Spurrier's a great coach and he always has something for us," Adams said.

Except for Saturday.

Smelly drove the Gamecocks 63 yards to the Vandy 13, but Moore stepped in front of a pass in the end zone to stop a third-quarter series.

Backup quarterback Blake Mitchell bounced a throw short on fourth-and-5. A series later, Mitchell's pass was picked off by linebacker Jonathan Goff with 11:05 remaining.

South Carolina had another chance to close in when Adams fumbled with eight minutes left and Eric Norway recovered. Linebacker Marcus Buggs and defensive end Curtis Gatewood sacked Mitchell on consecutive downs to end the threat.

Smelly was 12-of-20 for 145 yards and two interceptions, while Mitchell was 3-of-8 for 19 yards.

"Today, it didn't matter who played quarterback," Spurrier said.

Moore got things going for Vanderbilt early on. His first interception set up Bryan Hahnfeldt's 32-yard field goal.

One play later, Ryan Hamilton picked up Cory Boyd's fumble to put the Commodores in position again. Adams found George Smith for a 22-yard touchdown.

Vanderbilt kept up the first-quarter pressure. Two-series later, Adams had runs of 19 and four yards, then closed the drive with his second TD pass, a 20-yard toss to Justin Wheeler.

The Commodores were up 17-0, stunning most of the 79,212 at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt's standout receiver, came in needing three catches to tie the SEC's reception record of 208, held by Craig Yeast of Kentucky. Bennett, who caught 16 balls here against the Gamecocks two years ago, was held to two catches.

"Earl's the happiest guy in that locker room right now," Johnson said. "Because we won."



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