Your quarterback throws for over 300 yards, your running back goes over 100 yards rushing and your receiver finishes with over 160 yards. An easy win on Saturday night, right?
Despite some numbers that jump off the stat sheet, the Gamecocks were in a dogfight Saturday night, but came out with a 14-10 win against Vanderbilt.
“Vandy was tough – they played us tough,” said Coach Steve Spurrier. “It wasn’t real pretty, but it was a win against a pretty good, tough Vandy team.”
Stephen Garcia finished the night 22-of-33 for 312 yards, running back Kenny Miles had 18 carries for 102 yards and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had eight catches for 161 yards and one touchdown.
While the offense managed to pick up 431 yards overall on the night, it always seemed to sputter in the crucial situations. Spencer Lanning punted eight times as South Carolina converted only 6 of 16 third down chances.
“They’re a very disciplined team and they fight very hard to the end,” said Garcia. “We knew that going in that it was going to be a dogfight.”
“It was an unusual game,” said Spurrier. “Very fortunate for us.”
After falling behind 10-7 and getting pinned on their own 1-yard line to start the final period, three big plays in one drive turned the tide for the Gamecocks.
On the opening play of the drive from the 1-yard line, Garcia dropped back and found wide receiver Tori Gurley on the left side for a huge 43-yard gain.
“I’m standing there in the middle of those guys and said ‘We’re going to hang it up to Alshon down the left sideline’ and I looked over and Tori was out there,” said Spurrier. “Tori made a heck of a catch.”
“It was a great call and Tori made an excellent catch,” said Garcia. “As our team grows and our confidence grows, I think we’re going to take a lot more chances and a few more shots downfield.”
“All week long, Coach has been telling us to be ready to make a play,” Gurley said. “As a receiver, I did everything I had to do but Stephen just made a great throw because the throw was as great as the catch.”
On the next play, Garcia connected with Jeffery for 23 yards to move the Gamecocks into Vanderbilt territory. Two plays and a holding call later, South Carolina was looking at another 3rd and long situation. Jeffery made a catch over the middle and scampered in for the 43-yard score to put the Gamecocks ahead for good.
“Alshon had one of the best plays all year,” said Spurrier. “That was Stephen’s best throw all year. He was not that open and he hit him on a dead run cutting across the middle.”
“He’s one of the best receivers in the SEC, if not in the country,” Garcia said. “It’s a blessing to have him on our team. He’s making plays this early and it’s going to be fun to watch him the next couple of years.”
“He’s just raising the level of intensity,” said Gurley. “With us being competitive as a receiving corps, we want to go out and double that so we can all be successful as a team.”
Spurrier said that Jeffery has grown into the offense and actually suggests plays for the offense to get the ball to him.
“What I like about Alshon is he’ll come over and suggest plays,” said Spurrier. “He’ll say ‘Coach, I think I can do this.’ He’s got a feel for the game. He knows what’s going on out there.”
“He does that in practice,” said Garcia. “Anytime you can throw it to get his hands on the ball, it’s in your favor.”
Spurrier moves to 3rd all-time in SEC wins
With Saturday night’s win, Spurrier earned his 105th win in the SEC and moved into a tie with Vince Dooley for third all-time. Only Bear Bryant (159) and John Vaught (106) have more. Spurrier was happier with the Gamecocks winning their record fifth straight conference game at home. “I like that one better,” he said.
When asked what play Jeffery suggested tonight:
“We didn’t get to it. We’ll save it for the next team.”
When asked about the fact he wasn’t the original receiver called for in the play from the 1-yard line:
“It was my series to go in and when Coach found out I was in, I heard he wasn’t too happy about. But after the catch was made, me and him are best friends again.”