South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson remembers his last appearance at Vanderbilt during the 2012 season when he played the first two series of the third quarter after Connor Shaw bruised his right shoulder late in the first half.

The Gamecocks prevailed, 24-17, but the offense went three-and-out both drives and Thompson was sacked twice without a completion in three attempts against the Commodores.

“We didn’t perform at a high level and personally, I feel like that was my worst game,” Thompson said. “I’m just excited to get up there and put on a good show.”

RELATED: Garcia, Crawford preview Vandy’s home bout with South Carolina

The fifth-year senior’s a different player now, the leader of a rejuvenated offense after the Georgia win that’s ranked in the middle of the pack in the SEC at 440.3 yards per game. Thompson’s averaging 300 yards through the air and is on pace to set the single-season program record for passing yards in a season, currently held by current play-by-play man Todd Ellis (3,206 yards) during the 1987 season.

Matching up with the league’s second-worst defense against the pass Saturday night in Nashville, Thompson’s focus is on improvement, not a stat-driven outing.

“That’s a long way from now (single-season record),” Thompson said. “If we gotta run the ball sixty times to win and I have 50 yards passing and we win, I’m happy. I don’t care too much about that. It would be great if that stuff happened, but at the end of the day we want to win the SEC East and this is a big step toward doing that this week.”

Vanderbilt nearly led the conference in interceptions last season with 18, but no players are back from that secondary. Thompson’s thrown a pick in each start this fall but has never tossed more than one in a game at South Carolina.

Vanderbilt’s back end is one of two units in the SEC without a pick through through three games.

The other? Alabama.

The Gamecocks see that as a weakness they can exploit and have brushed off the ‘trap game’ moniker this matchup holds since it’s sandwiched between crucial East battles against Georgia and Mizzou.

“My (confidence level) is pretty high, but I mean, I just try to trust in my coaches and the guys around me no matter what,” Thompson said. “We try to forget games when they’re done. We just try to come out here and get better. Vandy’s the next team that we play. We’re excited to go up there for a challenge. We didn’t look too good when we went there last time.”

In Week 2, Ole Miss passer Bo Wallace carved up the second level of the Commodores’ defense for 320 yards and a touchdown. With good protection, Thompson could have a similar outing against a secondary starting a pair of second-year players — Tre Bell and Torren McGaster — that hasn’t tackled well in the first quarter of Derek Mason’s inaugural campaign.

“Secondary and skill-wise at the receiver position, we’re a little young,” Mason said Wednesday. “With that, we have to continue to grow each week and play football. Our concern is to make sure that we line up to what they do and let’s defend or let’s attack offensively and let’s give ourselves our best chance to win.”

Mason understands that South Carolina’s offensive approach is run-heavy with a two-back system of Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds, but knows Steve Spurrier is on the opposing sideline and when there’s a shot to take in the passing game, he’s going to let Thompson pull the trigger.

“Coach (Spurrier’s) pretty good at being able to dial it up on the perimeter and allowing his quarterbacks to find easy access throws as well as seam shots down the field,” Mason said. “Identification of personnel formation will tell you a lot in terms of what they are doing. With that being said, you have to go out there, lineup, play and pressure the quarterback and make sure you force the ball down.

“Any time you face an offense that wants to throw the ball down the field, in terms of a vertical passing game, you have to force the ball down. If you allow the ball to go over the top, then it’s going to be a long day.”