Gamecocks escape Vanderbilt with 17-13 win

By Isabelle Khurshudyan

The Daily Gamecock, U. South Carolina via UWIRE

Gamecocks escape Vanderbilt with 17-13 win

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore could tell quarterback Connor Shaw was in pain.

After taking a helmet to the shoulder on a 2-yard run toward the end of the first half in the season opener against Vanderbilt, Shaw went into the locker room with a shoulder contusion, not returning until halfway through the third quarter.

Lattimore asked Shaw if he would be all right, and Shaw told Lattimore he’d be back on, while favoring his right shoulder.

“He was hurting bad, but he was not going to come out,” Lattimore said. “He knew we needed him to take over and be our leader.”

Shaw may not have been all right, but he carried the team on his shoulder anyway, leading the Gamecocks to a 17-13 win over the Commodores.

“That just shows what kind of person he is,” Lattimore said. “You can see by the way he plays on the field what kind of person he is. It was just guts. He’s our leader.”

Without Shaw, the Gamecocks couldn’t get a first down, watching Vandy take a three-point lead on a 44-yard field goal.

Immediately after the score, Shaw returned to the field, but couldn’t get the Gamecocks a first down in the third quarter.

“There was no time to panic,” Shaw said. “I knew that we were going to bounce back.”

On the first drive of the fourth quarter, Shaw found Lattimore for an 8-yard pass. The next play breathed life back into the stagnant USC offense.

Shaw lofted a pass to senior tight end Justice Cunningham, who leaped in the open field before being on the receiving end on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Vanderbilt’s Andre Hal, knocking Cunningham’s helmet off. A 15-yard personal foul penalty followed the 20-yard reception, moving the Gamecocks to the Vanderbilt 22-yard line.

“I knew I caught the ball,” Cunningham said. “I had to hold onto the ball, but I knew it was going to be a big hit coming.”

The pass was the longest of the night, as USC finished with just 67 yards passing, tallying 205 yards rushing. Shaw kept it on the ground following Cunnigham’s catch, running 12 yards to the Vanderbilt 1-yard line, diving into the end zone and landing awkwardly on his shoulder. He came out for the next play, but came back in to hand off to Lattimore for the go-ahead touchdown, giving the Gamecocks a 17-13 lead they didn’t relinquish.

“I’m glad he’s my quarterback,” said defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles. “I’m proud of him. He pulled it out, and he came through when we needed him.”

The night started poorly for South Carolina’s Shaw–Lattimore combo. On the first offensive snap for the Gamecocks, Lattimore fumbled the ball, giving the Commodores possession in USC territory. It marked Lattimore’s first carry since his ACL tear against Mississippi State last season.

“I was really, really nervous, knowing I was about to get hit for the first time,” Lattimore said.

The defense held the Commodores on a fourth-down attempt, but on the next USC offensive possession, Shaw’s first pass was intercepted by Vanderbilt’s Kenny Ladler. Vanderbilt couldn’t capitalize after quarterback Jordan Rodgers was intercepted by senior linebacker Shaq Wilson, who returned the pick to the Vanderbilt 49-yard line.

Two plays later — two rushes by Shaw and Lattimore, respectively — the Gamecocks were in the end zone to take a 7-0 lead.
Fittingly, the Gamecocks secured the victory on Shaw’s legs and not his shoulder. With Vanderbilt out of timeouts and a minute and a half left in the game, Shaw’s 7-yard run to the sideline, sliding and staying in bounds to keep the clock moving, secured the victory for the Gamecocks. He finished second to Lattimore’s 110 rushing yards with 92.

“If we don’t make that first down, we’ve got 1:27 left, and who knows what’s going to happen?” said coach Steve Spurrier. “Connor said, ‘I can get it, Coach. Don’t worry.’”

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