Thursday, September 4, 2008

Live Blog: Vanderbilt vs. South Carolina

SEC football has arrived! Let's just say, Thank God for that. I'm up in the Vanderbilt Stadium press box, and I'll be providing a running blog of the action between the Commodores and the Gamecocks.

7:34: The Class of 2012 just finished the traditional home-opener run onto the field, and I'm glad to say they looked very enthused.

7:36: Vanderbilt won the toss and will receive first.

7:40: Two runs by Jared Hawkins, one on a fake reverse to D.J. Moore, net a Vanderbilt first down.

7:44: Vanderbilt had an impressive running attack going, but the drive stalled at midfield after Nickson and Brandon Barden couldn't hook up on third down. Weak punt by Brett Upson gives the Gamecocks the ball at their own 27.

7:47: How about that D? Gamecocks go 3 and out on their first possession.

7:52: Gaston Miller got absolutely annihilated on an option by Darian Stewart and fumbled at the 20-yard line. I'm surprised his head didn't come off.

7:55: Big play by the Commodores, as DT Greg Billinger comes in for a sack of Chris Smelley on second-and-goal.

8:01 Touchdown South Carolina, after Kenny McKinley hauls in a pass from Smelley for 19 yards on third-and-goal. 7-0 Gamecocks.

8:07: Vanderbilt looked pretty lost on that possession. Nickson is 1-3 for 3 yards passing thus far as the Commodores punt it away.

8:10: Commodores aren't buckling down on third down. On third-and-four, Smelley got all day to throw and found Jared Cook for 22 yards.

8:15: A tipped pass is grabbed by Reshard Langford for an interception! No. 33 returns the ball 33 yards to the Gamecock 47.

8:17: Justin Wheeler makes a nice catch but it's nowhere near a first down after another poor possession. Wheeler's the first Vanderbilt receiver with a catch today.

8:22: At the end of the first quarter, Vanderbilt has gained 30 total yards, South Carolina has gained 55. With 1 turnover apiece, the difference in the game has been that the Gamecocks capitalized on the forced fumble, and the Commodores did not capitalize on the interception.

8:26: A corner blitz didn't work out as Smelley threw a screen for a 14-yard gain. It would have been more if Langford didn't make a shoestring tackle.

8:33: Difference between Miami's defense and South Carolina's: Nickson can't find anywhere to run today. Eric Norwood sacked Nickson to bring on fourth-and-18. That's 22 total yards so far for the Commodores.

8:36: Nickelback Darlron Spead intercepts Smelley and returns it 41 yards! He got hurt at the end of the play, but I'm not sure how he hurt himself. Vanderbilt's secondary has been as good as advertised today.

8:38: Spead jogged off the field to tremendous applause. He deserves it after that play.

8:40: Gaston Miller rumbles for Vanderbilt's first first down in a while. They're at the 15.

8:44: Crucial 3rd and goal coming from the 2-yard line.

8:45: Vanderbilt had first-and-goal at the 4-yard line and couldn't put it in. Bryant Hahnfeldt kicks a 19-yard field goal to put the Commodores on the board, but that's a major lost opportunity. 7-3 Gamecocks.

8:51: "If VU scores 24 points today, present your ticket at a Taco Bell and receive a free taco!" The way things are going, if Vanderbilt scores 24 points today, the Rapture will have occurred.

8:52: Chris Marve and Reshard Langford stop Mike Davis on 3rd-and-2 to force fourth down. But the Ol' Ball Coach had a trick up his sleeve; a fake punt nets a first down.

8:56: Patrick Benoist just laid down the law! South Carolina had to settle for a 41-yard field goal as time expired, giving them a 10-3 lead going into halftime.

HALFTIME, 10-3 South Carolina

Some telling halftime statistics

The Good

Vanderbilt has intercepted Chris Smelley twice, both for big returns, and have also sacked him twice.
South Carolina has gained just 21 yards on the ground, and 133 yards total.

The Bad

Chris Nickson is 2-5 passing for 14 yards, and has rushed 10 times for a total of 12 yards.
Vanderbilt's largest gain today has been 11 yards, a pass to Justin Wheeler on third-and-23.
The Commodore secondary has as many catches as the receivers.
Vanderbilt has gained 50 yards total.

Simply put, this is what we were all expecting. Two excellent defenses going against two offenses that are still finding themselves. Vanderbilt's inability to capitalize fully on good field position from the two interceptions, netting just three points total, is the main reason the team trails. The defense has done an excellent job of containing the Gamecocks running game and making some big plays in the secondary.

9:20: Vanderbilt forces a 3-and-out on South Carolina's first possession of the half. SC wideout Kenny McKinley appears to be out for the game with a hamstring injury.

9:24: Nickson finds Wheeler for a first down, then shows off his elusiveness for a five-yard gain.

9:25: Nickson cannot find anyone, gets dropped for a five-yard loss. The O-line is getting a rude welcome to SEC play tonight.

9:26: Lucky break for the Commodores, as Upson's punt bounces off SC's Addison Williams and Ryan Hamilton recovers at the Gamecock 30-yard line.

9:30: TOUCHDOWN VANDERBILT! Nickson eludes a sack, then finds tight end Brandon Barden over the middle, who tumbles into the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown. It took every ounce of restraint not to yell just now. We're all tied up, 10-10!

9:34: As the crowd roars, South Carolina tries to convert a third-and-3. Mike Davis gets just enough on his run to get a first down and momentarily quiet the stadium.

9:39: Credit South Carolina for not letting the reversal of fortune get to them. They're engineering a very cool drive down the field, down to the Vandy 24. By the way, Greg Billinger has been all over the place today.

9:42: Give Billinger a field goal block today too! He got a hand up to deflect Ryan Succop's attempt, and John Stokes picked it up and took it to the Vanderbilt 42. Vanderbilt Stadium is rocking!

9:46: Reverse to Sean Walker and a pitch to Jared Hawkins gives Vanderbilt 1st-and-goal at the one.

9:48: TOUCHDOWN VANDERBILT! 17-10 Commodores after a one-yard sneak by Nickson. You can see Spurrier sweating from here.

9:54: Running back Mike Davis is on the sidelines. South Carolina's got the ball in Vanderbilt territory.

10:01 Now Davis is back in, as South Carolina has the ball on Vandy's 34-yard line. Good pressure by Broderick Stewart to force an incompletion.

10:04: Another field goal attempt by Ryan Succop, and this one he just misses wide left! Great defensive stand by Vanderbilt in their own territory, and Succop's nightmarish second half continues.

10:07: This is the best home crowd I've ever seen at a Vanderbilt football game.

10:08: Play-action by Nickson absolutely bamboozles the Gamecocks as tight end Austin Monahan was left all by himself on the left side of the field. 18-yard gain to midfield for Vanderbilt.

10:10: This game has had a lot of unusual occurrences; now we have a defensive holding call on South Carolina's Captain Munnerlyn to keep Vanderbilt's drive alive.

10:12: Pass interference on Captain Munnerlyn gives Vanderbilt a first down at the 21-yard line. Munnerlyn's on the sideline now, looking like he wants to kill somebody.

10:16: Vanderbilt receiver Chris Reinert was injured on the play and has been carted off the field. As he goes, he waves his arms in the air to pump up the crowd.

10:18: TOUCHDOWN VANDERBILT! Jared Hawkins broke a couple of tackles and took it to the house on the first play after Reinert pumped up the crowd. It's 24-10 Vanderbilt, with 9:28 to play, capping an 8-play, 69-yard drive.

10:23: Vanderbilt squibbed the kickoff and South Carolina took it back to the 45. It's now first-and-10 Gamecocks at the Vanderbilt 40.

10:24: Vanderbilt's looking a little tight on defense; the Gamecocks have a first-and-goal. Vanderbilt calls a time-out.

10:29: South Carolina touchdown, as Chris Smelley finds a wide-open Freddie Brown in the back of the end zone. 24-17 Commodores after a quick, 55-yard drive by the Gamecocks.

10:35: 3-and-out by Vanderbilt, and South Carolina takes over at the Vandy 48-yard line after a 30-yard punt by Upson.

That's all for me. I'm heading down to the field for the remainder of the game.

1:39 (A.M.) Wow, what a game, what a finish! Hats off to Greg Billinger and Steve Stone for stepping up when the Gamecocks were driving, and then some seriously gutsy running by Jared Hawkins to seal the deal. He said after the game that he loves having the weight on his shoulders at the end, you've got to love that.

Your final: Vanderbilt 24, South Carolina 17. Vanderbilt's 2-0 for the first time in three years, with a home win over a ranked team for the first time since September 19, 1992. This will undoubtedly spark a great deal of discussion and excitement over the next few days so check back tomorrow for some Q&As with Greg Billinger, Jared Hawkins, Chris Nickson and coach Bobby Johnson.

1 comment:

Will said...

great win! everyone in nashville be safe! we deserve this!