Rapid Reaction: Slow start, fast finish as Kevin Harris, Gamecocks throttle Vanderbilt for first win
About the only reliable things for South Carolina so far this season have been Shi Smith and Kevin Harris. And while Smith was bottled up for much of the game Saturday at Vanderbilt, Harris came through just in time in a 41-7 thrashing.
The Gamecocks led 10-0 at the break but got a spark early in the second half when they stuffed a Vanderbilt fake punt attempt, and on the very next play, Harris ran in for a touchdown from 25 yards out to make it 17-0. Harris then broke out early in the 4th quarter with an 88-yard touchdown to stretch the lead to 34-7. That helped Harris deliver his second consecutive 100-yard rushing effort, and by that point, he averaged 8.1 yards per carry.
He finished with 171 yards, becoming just the 6th SC running back to topp 170 since 2000. The Gamecocks ran for 283 yards, easily surpassing their 2-game total coming in.
His first TD provided a spark for both teams as they more than doubled the first-half scoring output with 3 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. Vanderbilt answered Harris’ score with a 9-play, 75-yard drive when QB Ken Seals hit Cam Johnson for a 22-yard touchdown. But the Gamecocks restored their 17-point lead with Collin Hill’s 2nd touchdown of the game, a 10-yard rushing score.
For a team needing some positives after a rough start to the season, South Carolina got just that en route to its 12th straight win over Vanderbilt. South Carolina delivered another big play later in the fourth quarter when Dakereon Joyner added a 47-yard rushing TD, as the Gamecocks opened a 34-point lead.
However, the game throughout the first half resembled the weather, which was cloudy, rainy and wet.
The first half was one marked by teams looking for their first win as both struggled, especially on offense as they combined for three missed field goal attempts. After Smith opened the season with 10 catches against Tennessee, and 12 against Florida, with a touchdown in each game, he was seen as the focus of the offense. But Smith was held to just 1 catch for 14 yards in the first half. Vanderbilt also struggled on offense, and was 0-for-4 on 3rd downs in the first half, and managed just 32 rushing yards.
A promising drive midway through the second quarter for Vanderbilt ended inside the South Carolina as Seals was tracked down on fourth down by LB Ernest Jones for a stop. That came after Seals made a 33-yard pass to Amir Abdur-Rahman. Gamecocks responded with a 96-yard drive that needed four plays near the goal line, but QB Collin Hill punched it in on 4th down to get the score.
South Carolina got off to the first slow start of the season as the Gamecocks didn’t score on their first drive of the game. Hill was sacked twice in the 1st quarter, and the Gamecocks gave up their 10th sack of the season in the first half. By the time Parker White hit a field goal, the offense was mostly Harris, who had 15 rushing yards and 18 receiving yards. White saw his consecutive field goal streak end at 14 after he was 1 kick from tying a school record. He missed a 53-yard attempt wide left in the 1st quarter.
Both teams played the game without key players. On the South Carolina defensive line, Zacch Pickens started in place of Keir Thomas, who did not make the trip for undisclosed reasons.
Vanderbilt had just 56 scholarship players available because of COVID-19 quarantines and injuries. The minimum to play is 53. Among the players out for the Commodores were leading tacklers Dashaun Jerkins and Donovan Kaufman, leading rusher Javeon Marlow and Devin Boddie Jr. The positive news was they got running back Keyon Henry-Brooks, safety Brendon Harris and wide receivers James Bostic, who have been sidelined.