NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Steve Spurrier always seems to have something up his sleeve. This time, it was ... his third-team tailback?
With star freshman Marcus Lattimore out and his offense sputtering again, the South Carolina coach turned to Brian Maddox to avoid another embarrassing outcome against Vanderbilt. The senior answered with a career-high 146 yards and the game-clinching touchdown to lead the Gamecocks (No. 21 BCS, No. 19 AP) to a difficult 21-7 win over the Commodores on Saturday night, giving Spurrier his 40th win with South Carolina.
"I was just putting it in slow-mo," Maddox said. "That really helped me. Once I saw the hole, I jetted in it so fast and hard and powerful."
The victory snapped South Carolina's seven-game Southeastern Conference road losing streak that dated back to 2008 and more importantly put the Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2) in first place in the SEC East.
Spurrier once dominated Vanderbilt when he coached at Florida, but has struggled with the Commodores since moving to Columbia, where he's 40-40. The Gamecocks needed a fourth-quarter touchdown to beat Vanderbilt 14-10 last season and with Lattimore out South Carolina continued to struggle in the series.
It had lost two of the last three to Vanderbilt (2-5, 1-3) and another loss to the Commodores would have been disastrous with the division title a realistic goal.
Maddox entered the game and replaced ineffective starter Kenny Miles on South Carolina's fourth series with less than 6 minutes left in the first half. He wasn't immediately successful either, but began to wear down the Vanderbilt defense midway through the third quarter when he rushed for 48 yards on South Carolina's game-turning 93-yard drive.
He capped it with a 2-yard score for a 14-7 lead that seemed to shake the Gamecocks awake and forced the Commodores to pay attention to the run.
"Brian did excellent," Spurrier said. "Kenny just couldn't get a hole. I feel bad for Kenny but when Brian got his chance he was making things happen. He got the game ball."
Vanderbilt had terrorized South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia up to that point. The Commodores sacked Garcia four times -- half their season total -- and hurried him several times in the first half, and the mistake-prone Gamecocks couldn't get going with drives ending on sacks, an errant snap and Casey Hayward's SEC-leading fifth interception.
Garcia had focused on the short passing game, mostly focusing on Tori Gurley and the left flat. Maddox's success with cutback runs, though, opened things up and that paid immediately dividends for Garcia.
He hit Gurley with a 24-yard pass to set up Maddox's run, then caught Vanderbilt in man coverage on a 72-yard touchdown strike to Alshon Jeffery down the right sideline midway through the fourth quarter to finish off the Commodores.
"It was a thing of beauty," Spurrier said.
Gurley finished with career highs of 13 catches and 109 yards. Jeffery had nine catches for 158 yards, giving the Gamecocks two receivers with 100 yards in the same game for the first time since 2006. Garcia also hit Gurley for a 15-yarder on a quick-strike 51-second drive at the end of the first half to tie the game after Larry Smith put Vanderbilt up on a 3-yard run.
Garcia hit 31 of 39 passes for 355 yards a week after throwing for 382 in loss to Kentucky last week, but did most of his damage after Maddox started doing his.
"I take advantage of all my opportunities, which I haven't been given many," Maddox said. "You've got to take advantage of every single one. I did that tonight."
Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell couldn't say the same about his Commodores, but was able to take positives away from the game a week after the Commodores were dusted 43-0 at Georgia. He wasn't satisfied, though.
"It was a great comeback from last week as far as defensive effort," Caldwell said. "We played a good football team tonight and had a chance to beat them. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. There's no excuses."