The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Commodores blow lead, fall to South Carolina 13-10

Ralph Webb
Ralph Webb

After leading for the vast majority of the game in its football season opener, Vanderbilt could not hang on as South Carolina scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, capped off with a 55-yard field goal in the last 90 seconds to win 13-10.

Vanderbilt got out to a hot start, recovering a muffed punt and converting it into points as Tommy Openshaw nailed a 36-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Later in the first, the Commodores moved the ball wonderfully with a 13-play, 67-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run from Khari Blasingame.

Afterwards, in a decision that is sure to get much more press in the coming week, up 10-0 in the second quarter and coming off of a splendid drive, starting quarterback Kyle Shurmur was benched for backup Wade Freebeck.

“When you look at Wade, Wade’s only one play away from having to start,” head coach Derek Mason explained in the postgame. “If [Shurmur] goes out for any particular reason, we don’t want that to be [Freebeck’s] first snap.”

Freebeck would stay in for two series before being pulled for Shurmur, who would finish the game from there on. And though the Commodores weren’t able to get anything going on offense after Shurmur’s return, the first-half defense was suffocating.

The Gamecocks struggled to move the chains, as Vanderbilt’s speed filled up nearly every hole. However, in the second quarter, South Carolina looked as if it would put points on the board until sophomore linebacker Charles Wright recovered a fumble forced by Oren Burks to keep the Gamecocks scoreless.

The same success was not there in the second half, as South Carolina connected on a couple of deep passes and ran the ball more effectively. A 10-play drive in the third, ending with a 48-yard field goal from former All-American kicker Elliott Fry, cut the Commodore lead to seven.

Later, South Carolina was able to put together another long drive, nine plays and 84 yards, and scored its first touchdown of the game on a Deebo Samuel run to tie it up at 10 with over seven minutes to play.

On the ensuing posession, the Commodores seemed to have returned the favor and moved the ball quickly into Gamecock territory. Very conservative play calling near the red zone stalled their drive, and they were forced to settle for a 45-yard Tommy Openshaw field goal attempt.

Openshaw, who had made his only attempt of the day, yanked the kick left and the Commodores came up empty. This opened the door for South Carolina, as it had just under four minutes to get into field goal range.

It took all but 40 seconds to do this, as Fry had just enough leg on a 55-yard attempt to give the Gamecocks their first lead of the game. After gaining just 88 yards of total offense in the first half, South Carolina gained 119 yards in the fourth quarter alone. Burks said it came down to simple execution.

“I don’t think it was anything they did it, was just us not executing our defense,” Burks said when discussing the second-half performance. “At the end of the day, it’s on us.”

With only 40 seconds and one timeout,  Vanderbilt needed a miracle but couldn’t get one as the offense sputtered and turned the ball over on downs.

The lone offensive bright spot in this game was the rushing attack spearheaded by All-SEC running back Ralph Webb and the former linebacker turned running back Blasingame. Blasingame looked especially good, given that this was his first game in college playing running back, and his continued success will mean a lot for the preservation of Webb, who carried a very large load in the backfield last year. Defensively, Zach Cunningham led the way with 12 total tackles and three tackles for loss.

Vanderbilt will look to rebound next week at home against Middle Tennessee State.

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