NASHVILLE, Tenn—South Carolina won the field position battle and converted key third downs, beating Vanderbilt 31-13 and spoiling the Commodores' homecoming at Dudley Field.
The Commodores' failure to move the ball through the air also hurt. Vandy's Chris Nickson completed just four of 15 passes for 76 yards, and was intercepted twice.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt gave the ball to South Carolina three times on the Commodore side of the 50. The Gamecocks scored two touchdowns—both in the first half—from those possessions.
The Commodores also converted just one of 12 third-down conversions.
"I didn't think we played a very sharp game today," said Vandy coach Bobby Johhson. "South Carolina played a very aggressive game. They got after it a bit harder than we did today."
The Commodores trailed 17-3 just before halftime when Vandy's Curtis Gatewood forced a fumble at the Carolina 20, and Marcus Buggs recovered with 39 seconds left. On the last play of the half, Nickson scrambled right and got a key block from Cassen Jackson-Garrison and dove into the end zone as time expired.
Gatwood intercepted Newton on the first drive of the second half, giving Vandy the ball at its own 46. However, the Commodores had to settle for another Bryant Hahnfeldt field goal when Jasper Brinkley tipped Nickson's third-down pass from the Carolina 10.
Carolina scored on its next two possessions to salt the game away. Newton capped a five-play, 75-yard drive by scrambling for a seven-yard touchdown with 8:33 left in the third quarter.
The drive's big plays were passes of 17 and 42 yards to Sidney Rice, a sophomore who tied an all-time Carolina mark for career touchdown receptions with 19.
On Carolina's next possession, which started at the Carolina 35 after Brett Upson's 31-yard punt, Mike Davis sprinted for a 15-yard touchdown with 14:15 to play.
That would be the game's last score. Vanderbilt's D.J. Moore recovered a Carolina fumble in the fourth quarter and sprinted towards the goal line for an easy touchdown, but the play was prematurely blown dead by an official, and the ball awarded to Vandy at its 16. The Commodores failed to score on the drive.
Vanderbilt dropped to 3-5 on the year and 1-4 in the Southeastern Conference. The Commodores travel to Duke next week.