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September 14, 2013

Vanderbilt falls to No. 13 South Carolina, 35-25

COLUMBIA, SC -- If Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin's game plan versus South Carolina included getting off to a good start, consider that plan an utter failure.

Carolina jumped on Vanderbilt before the Commodores could hit the reset button, scoring touchdowns on its first four possessions. Starting quarterback Connor Shaw hit Nick Fry and Bruce Ellington with touchdown passes, backup quarterback Dylan Thompson ran for a score, and Mike Davis added a rushing touchdown also.

On its fifth drive, Carolina had steadily marched down the field again, only to have Steven Clarke pick Thompson and return it 69 yards to the Carolina 1. From there, Jerron Seyour rushed in for Vandy's first score.

A Carolina punt, its first of the half, pinned VU back to its 16 with 24 seconds left in the half. Austyn Carta-Samuels led VU on a drive into Carolina territory, where Carey Spear hit a 54-yard field goal as time expired.

That put the score at 28-10, even though Carolina dominated the stat sheet -- 381 yards to 94 and 21 first downs to four.

Carolina opened the second-half scoring with a Brandon Wilds score on a screen pass from Shaw, and VU answered with a Carta-Samuels 1-yard run less than a minute into the fourth quarter.

VU forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and recovered at the Carolina 19. On the next snap, Carta-Samuels' tackle-eligible 19-yard screen pass to Tate went for a score, and a 2-point conversion to Steven Scheu cut the lead to 35-25.

After dueling three-and-outs on their respective ensuing possessions, Vanderbilt's punt inadvertently touched SC's Todd Gurley's foot, which VU's Darius Simms recovered at the Carolina 37 yard line. Vanderbilt marched to the South Carolina five yard line, but Carta-Samuels forced a third down pass to freshman wideout Jordan Cunningham that was picked off in the end zone by senior Jimmy Legree.

Officials spotted the ball at the one yard line, with 8:41 remaining. But both teams suddenly returned to first quarter form, as Vanderbilt's defense gave way to a 17-play, 64-yard drive. By the time the Gamecocks had to punt, the game clock had less than a minute left, and VU's offense ended the contest at its own 45 yard line.

With the loss, Vanderbilt moves to 0-2 in the SEC, and 1-2 overall. Carolina moves to 1-1 in the SEC, and 2-1 overall.

Though the scoreboard showed a 10 point margin, the statistics for the game revealed a far more lopsided game. Vanderbilt managed just 14 first downs, to Carolina's 31, and the Gamecocks out-gained Vanderbilt 579 yards to 268.

Carta-Samuels, who was running for his life most of the night, completed just 12 of his 22 attempts -- eight of those to Matthews. Tate led VU with 71 yards rushing on 10 carries, while Jerron Seymour had 39 yards on six carries.

For Carolina, Shaw finished completing 21 of 29 passing attempts for 284 yards, including three touchdowns. Shaw, as he did last year versus VU in Nashville, again ripped the Commodore defense on the ground, gaining 84 yards on 19 carries. Shaw completed passes to 10 different Gamecocks receivers, including eight to Ellington for a game-high 111 yards.

Next Saturday, Vanderbilt plays 0-3 Massachusetts at Gilette Stadium in Boston.

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