Heartbreak in South Carolina

Vanderbilt falls 21-20 to Gamecocks

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Vanderbilt got 206 yards passing and 41 rushing from Mike Wright and forced four South Carolina turnovers, but a last-minute touchdown gave the Gamecocks a 21-20 win on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.

The Commodores (2-5, 0-3 SEC) were 96 seconds away from breaking a 12-game losing streak to South Carolina and 10-game road SEC skid, but South Carolina backup quarterback Zeb Noland came in and led and eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended with his 9-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Legette with 37 seconds left.

That proved to be the game winner.

Wright, a sophomore, got his first career start at quarterback with sophomore Ken Seals out due to injury. His efforts, coupled with a mostly dominant defensive performance almost helped change the trajectory of Vandy’s season and derail recent history.

But it wasn’t meant to be

Clinging to a 17-14 lead late in the fourth, and having overcome a 14-3 deficit, an Ethan Barr interception got the Commodores the ball back with 5:08 to play. A little more than 3 1/2 minutes later Joseph Bulovas kicked a 28-yard field goal making it 20-14.

Noland completed passes of 29, 15 and 21 yards to get the Gamecocks (4-3, 1-3 SEC) in position to score and win the contest.

Vanderbilt now returns home at 3 p.m. Saturday to host Mississippi State (3-3, 1-1 SEC).

South Carolina took the opening kickoff and put together a methodical drive that chewed up more than five minutes off the clock. Gamecocks’ starting quarterback Luke Doty threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nick Muse making it 7-0 and capping a 75-yard series.

Vanderbilt answered with a seven-play drive that stalled on the South Carolina 24. Bulovas kicked a 42-yard field goal from there making it a 7-3 game.

That bit of momentum for Vandy was short-lived as Doty hit Jaheim Bell on an 82-yard bomb putting the Gamecocks up 14-3 with 5:07 left in the opening stanza.

The Commodores settled down  from there and got a big break late in the second quarter when a big Terion Sugick hit on South Carolina running back MarShawn Lloyd caused a fumble giving Vandy the ball at the 14 going in. Two plays later Rocko Griffin scored from the 1 to cut the deficit to 14-10.

That would be the way the score would read going into halftime. Vanderbilt held South Carolina to 33 yards, forced three punts, a fumble and a turnover on downs after falling behind in a 14-3 hole.

Late in the third quarter, Vandy’s defense came through again thanks to a fumble caused by De’Rickey Wright and a recovery by Jaylen Mahoney. That led to a Mike Wright’s 52-yard touchdown pass to Will Sheppard giving the Commodores their first lead at 17-14 with 5:17 left in the quarter.

Vanderbilt took that lead into the fourth quarter.

Anfernee Orji led the Commodores with eight tackles. Sheppard has three receptions for 120 yards and Griffin finished with 57 yards rushing.


• The Vandy defense has forced four turnover on downs inside its own 5 this season.

• Vanderbilt’s four takeaways were its most in a single game since Sept. 8, 2018 against Nevada.

• Wright’s 52-yard pass in the third quarter was Vanderbilt’s longest play from scrimmage this season.

• Vandy has been outscored 90-13 in the first quarter this season.

• Vanderbilt now trails the all-time series against South Carolina 4-27.

• Vanderbilt’s four wins against South Carolina have come in 1998, 1999, 2007 and 2008.

• The Commodores have dropped 13 in a row to the Gamecocks having last won in 2008. They last won in Columbia in 2007.

• Vandy’s last SEC road win was Nov. 27, 2018 at Arkansas. The Dores have dropped 11 straight league contests on the road.

• Vanderbilt has lost 16 SEC games in a row.

• Attendance was announced as 64,695.

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