Vanderbilt Football Three Keys: South Carolina

Three keys Vanderbilt

The Vanderbilt Commodores have played the big boys in the SEC. They have gone up against Alabama, Georgia, and Ole Miss. They still have to play Tennessee, but their other November opponents give them a legitimate chance of winning conference games and changing how their season will be remembered.

By Matt Zemek

If VU is going to create real forward momentum as a program, it needs to get at least one if not two SEC wins this month, carrying that achievement into the offseason and giving Clark Lea a chance to impress recruits (and transfer portal prospects).

How can Vanderbilt beat South Carolina? It won’t be easy, but the roadmap is certainly very clear for the Commodores:

1 – Make Spencer Rattler win the game with his arm

The book on South Carolina’s offense is an open one. Everyone in the SEC knows that if South Carolina runs the ball, it will be in relatively good shape. MarShawn Lloyd is one of the SEC’s better running backs. When the Gamecocks are able to establish him, Spencer Rattler can use play action and pick his spots as a passer, hitting a few big plays to take advantage of defenses which are expecting the run. Everything comes together for South Carolina when it can establish Lloyd and get defenses off balance. When the Gamecocks can’t establish Lloyd – which was the case last week against Missouri – their offense is simply not up to the task of throwing the ball regularly in obvious passing situations. This is not a good “come from behind” offense. South Carolina has to be even or leading on the scoreboard for its offense to function well. Making Spencer Rattler throw – putting him in clear passing situations – is the central gateway to a VU victory.

This leads to the second key:

2 – Strike first, strike big

If Vanderbilt wants to empty the playbook or use some gadget plays, don’t wait until the third quarter. Go big in the first quarter to get a 10-0 or 14-0 lead and put South Carolina in catch-up mode. Vanderbilt can’t wait to spring a trap on South Carolina; it needs to ambush the Gamecocks early and get on top of this game. Then it can structure the rest of the contest the way it wants. Coaches often say “you can’t win a game in the first quarter,” another way of saying that games come down to the fourth quarter. Vanderbilt can’t have that mentality in this game. It needs to treat the first quarter with fourth-quarter-level urgency.

3 – Kick coverage

South Carolina ran back a kick for a touchdown against Texas A&M, which helped the Gamecocks get an early lead in that Oct. 22 game and hold on for a win. Vanderbilt can’t let the Gamecocks get any freebies on kick returns and in the larger realm of special teams. That would be a disaster.

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