Scores

Final

(24) South Carolina 17

(1-1, 0-1 SEC)

Vanderbilt 24

(2-0, 1-0 SEC)

Coverage: ESPN

8:30 PM ET, September 4, 2008

Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN

1 2 3 4 T
#24SC 7 3 0 717
VAN 0 3 14 724

Top Performers

Passing: C. Smelley (SC) - 233 YDS, 2 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: J. Hawkins (VAN) - 17 CAR, 84 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: J. Cook (SC) - 8 REC, 111 YDS

Vandy stuns South Carolina for 1st home win vs. ranked foe since '92

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt heard all the talk from South Carolina after beating the then-No. 6 Gamecocks last October. It made the Commodores mad.

And for the first time since 1992, they finally did something about it on their own turf.

Low: Vandy's Front Dominates

Give credit to the Commodores' special teams and physical play for their upset of the 24th-ranked Gamecocks, SEC blogger Chris Low writes. Blog

Chris Nickson threw for a touchdown and ran for another and Vanderbilt beat a ranked opponent on its own field Thursday night, upsetting No. 24 South Carolina 24-17 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

Vanderbilt (2-0) had made it a habit of knocking off SEC teams on the road with victories at Arkansas and Tennessee in 2005, an upset of then-No. 22 Georgia in 2006 and even pulled off the biggest victory in more than 70 years by downing South Carolina last October.

"They thought it was a fluke," Vanderbilt defensive end Steven Stone said of that win. "And that motivated us."

The result? The Commodores' first upset of a ranked team in Vanderbilt Stadium since Sept. 19, 1992, a 31-9 win over then-No. 25 Mississippi.

This win was very sweet for Vanderbilt, which lost its first 14 games against Steve Spurrier as he coached Duke, Florida and South Carolina. Now the Commodores have won two straight against the ol' ball coach, and it was enough for Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson, a Columbia native and Clemson alum, to nearly lose his voice.

"It feels great," Johnson said. "I was very proud of our guys, the way they played in the second half. We overcame a lot from the second half, and they just kept plugging away so I'm very pleased with their effort. I'm sorry I lost my voice."

South Carolina (1-1) had survived four interceptions in shutting out North Carolina State 34-0 last week. The Gamecocks couldn't escape their mistakes against Vanderbilt, and Spurrier wasn't happy.

"Last year's was just as stunning, and it sort of irritated me that our players tried to say we weren't ready. We were ready to play, we just got our tails kicked. I'm sure those Vanderbilt players are wondering what kind of excuse the South Carolina guys have now. We don't have excuses, they just beat us," Spurrier said.

The Commodores picked off two of Chris Smelley's passes and sacked him four times, recovered a punt that bounced off a South Carolina player and blocked a field goal. South Carolina's lone touchdown was due to Vanderbilt's only turnover, which the Gamecocks recovered at the Commodores 20 in the first quarter.

Smelley threw two touchdown passes, the second to Freddie Brown with 7:39 left. But top receiver Kenny McKinley was on the sideline with an injury as Smelley overthrew a receiver and was sacked on consecutive plays as Vandy forced Spurrier and the Gamecocks to punt with 2:39 left.

Ryan Succop also missed a 49-yard field goal wide left.

The South Carolina meltdown continued in Vandy's clinching TD drive. Defensive captain Captain Munnerlyn was flagged twice on third downs, keeping alive a 68-yard possession capped by Jared Hawkins' 13-yard TD run for a 24-10 lead with 9:28 left. Hawkins also helped Vandy run out the clock to preserve the win and had 66 of his career-high 84 yards in the second half.

Vandy Strong Early On

Vandy's upset of No. 24 South Carolina shouldn't come as much of a surprise, especially since coach Bobby Johnson has been at the helm. As good as the Commodores have been in August and September under Johnson (they're 13-15 in those months), they don't fare as well as the season goes on.

Vandy Win Pct. By Month
Under Bobby Johnson
Month Winning Pct.
Aug./Sept. .464
Oct. .292
Nov. .100

"We're not a blowoff team. We're going to hit you in the mouth," he said.

Vanderbilt had little offense in the first half and was outgained 133-50 by the Gamecocks. Reshard Langford and Darlron Spead had more yards (74) off their two interceptions than their own offense.

But Vanderbilt, which had lost 10 straight SEC openers at home, got the breaks that usually go against the Commodores in the second half. Johnson said his Commodores were so angry at their play he didn't have to tell them what to do at halftime.

"They knew they didn't play well. I just had to open the door," he said.

Brett Upson's punt glanced off the back of Addison Williams of South Carolina, and Ryan Hamilton recovered at the South Carolina 30. On the next play, Nickson threw to Brandon Barden for a 31-yard touchdown with 10:14 left and a 10-10 tie.

The 6-foot-5 Barden had transferred to Vandy from Virginia Tech after the shootings that left 32 dead. He evaded Munnerlyn for his second catch and first TD with the Commodores.

Officials threw a flag as Smelley tried to find Moe Brown for a long pass. But they ruled the ball uncatchable instead of flagging Vandy for pass interference. South Carolina had to settle for a 42-yard field goal attempt by Succop, who hit a 41-yarder as the first half expired.

Greg Billinger got a hand up and blocked the ball, which John Stokes recovered for Vanderbilt.

Then the Commodores finally showed signs of an offense. Nickson hit Jamie Graham on a 16-yard pass, then Sean Walker ran for 29 yards on a reverse. Two plays later, Nickson scored from a yard out for a 17-10 lead with 3:53 left in the third.

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Team Stat Comparison

 
SC
VAN
1st Downs1815
Total Yards325225
Passing23390
Rushing92135
Penalties8-514-35
3rd Down Conversions6-152-10
4th Down Conversions1-10-0
Turnovers31
Possession29:5830:02

Passing Leaders

South CarolinaC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Smelley23/392336.022
VanderbiltC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Nickson8/13906.910

Rushing Leaders

South CarolinaCARYDSAVGTDLG
Davis18804.4015
Rank461.502
VanderbiltCARYDSAVGTDLG
Hawkins17844.9113
Walker12929.0029

Receiving Leaders

South CarolinaRECYDSAVGTDLG
Cook811113.9024
LeCorn44010.0015
VanderbiltRECYDSAVGTDLG
Barden13131.0131
Graham3217.0016

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERSCVAN
TD06:00Kenny Mckinley 19 Yd Pass From Chris Smelley (Ryan Succop Kick) 70
SECOND QUARTERSCVAN
FG04:32Bryant Hahnfeldt 19 Yd 73
FG00:00Ryan Succop 41 Yd 103
THIRD QUARTERSCVAN
TD10:14Brandon Barden 31 Yd Pass From Chris Nickson (Bryant Hahnfeldt Kick) 1010
TD03:53Chris Nickson 1 Yd Run (Bryant Hahnfeldt Kick) 1017
FOURTH QUARTERSCVAN
TD09:28Jared Hawkins 13 Yd Run (Bryant Hahnfeldt Kick) 1024
TD07:39Freddie Brown 5 Yd Pass From Chris Smelley (Ryan Succop Kick) 1724