Managing just 77 total yards and five first downs at South Carolina, Vanderbilt suffered its first loss, a 21-3 decision which had precious little to do with the defense's performance.
While it did allow 367 yards, the defense also intercepted quarterback Stephen Garcia four times and kept the Southeastern Conference's top running back, sophomore Marcus Lattimore, to 77 yards on 20 attempts.
"I thought our defense played extremely well," Commodores coach James Franklin said. "They played well enough to win. Offensively, we got manhandled up front. Their athleticism was obvious."
A running game which produced nearly 300 yards in a rout of Ole Miss last week managed exactly four yards against much better opposition. Forced to throw -- or to try to throw, what with the Gamecocks racking up six sacks and knocking quarterback Larry Smith out late in the third quarter -- Vandy had no real shot at pulling the upset.
South Carolina was the first legitimately stout defense the Commodores had played and every weakness was exposed. The receivers couldn't gain separation, the offensive line simply couldn't make a block and the quarterbacks didn't have time to look around.
One has to wonder what will happen to this offense when Vandy next plays in two weeks -- at No. 3 Alabama and its defense which hasn't allowed more than 251 yards in any game this season.
"We were trying to stay positive and have faith, and that's what we're going to keep doing. We're going to keep believing," sophomore center Wesley Johnson said.
--The Commodores' ball-hawking secondary continued to wreak havoc by intercepting Stephen Garcia four times, giving them 14 picks in four games to lead the nation. Casey Hayward added two more, giving him 12 for his career, while Chris Marve and Andre Hal also notched picks.
--Vanderbilt's defense has been especially strong in the first quarter this year and it was again, holding South Carolina scoreless. In the first four games, the defense has allowed just one field goal in the opening 15 minutes.
--MLB Chris Marve notched nine tackles, giving him 328 for his career, and needs just 24 to join the top 10 in school history. He would finish with exactly 400 stops in his career if he averages nine per game over the last eight contests.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Jonathan Krause -- On a nightmarish evening for the offense, Krause was the unit's one bright spot with nine receptions for 55 yards. He was denied a 10th catch when an official's call -- one which was upheld by review -- gave South Carolina an interception even though it appeared that Krause at least had dual possession.
LOOKING GOOD: The defense got the Commodores off to a good start with two first quarter interceptions, the first setting up a Carey Spear field goal. The D continued to scrap and make plays, eventually finishing with four interceptions and holding All-American candidate Marcus Lattimore to 77 yards on 20 rushes. Punter Richard Kent aided the defense's effort by averaging 41.3 yards per kick, booming three punts of 50 yards or more and downing a pair of boots inside the Gamecocks' 20.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The offense's weaknesses were exposed as it gained just 77 total yards and five first downs against the freakishly athletic ends of South Carolina. Vandy managed just four yards on the ground and its passing game simply isn't good enough to make up for that. The line did nothing well, allowing six sacks and getting QB Larry Smith knocked out late in the third quarter. Smith must also do better protecting the ball, getting a fumble returned for a TD for the second time this month.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's hard to call a game if you can't protect and you can't run the ball." -- Coach James Franklin on the "conservative" offense which gained only 77 yards and five first downs while allowing six sacks.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--P Richard Kent extended his string of games in which he's downed a punt inside the opponents' 20-yard line to 16 when his second boot of the game was corralled at the 4. Kent averaged 41.3 yards for the night with three punts of better than 50 yards.
--LB Chase Garnham had the most productive game of his career with 10 tackles, including one on a 4th-and-1 play in the first quarter. Garnham also had a half-tackle for loss.
--LB Archibald Barnes notched seven tackles, a good game by any standard. What made this one more remarkable is that Barnes entered the evening having made only five stops in the team's first three games.
--QB Larry Smith was knocked out of the game late in the third quarter after absorbing his sixth sack of the night. Coach James Franklin didn't mention a specific injury, but said Smith was sore all over after taking a lot of hits in the first four games.
--WR John Cole (leg) sat out his second straight game after undergoing surgery a week and a half ago. The coaching staff is hoping the upcoming off-week will enable Smith, Cole, TE Brandon Barden and RB Warren Norman to be closer to 100 percent for an Oct. 8 visit to Alabama.