Vanderbilt got on the board first with a 12 play, 66 yard drive that culminated in a 25-yard field goal by Bryant Hahnfeldt. That drive featured runs of 20 yards by Jared Hawkins and 15 yards by Cassen Jackson-Garrison.
South Carolina answered with a 55-yard field goal by Ryan Succop to tie the score. Vanderbilt's Nickson was intercepted on first play of ensuing possession at the Vandy 29. Nine plays later Syvelle Newton completed a 2-yard scoring pass to Sidney Rice to give South Carolina a 10-3 lead with 9:30 remaining in the half.
Later in the second quarter, South Carolina's Newton completed a 23-yard pass to Kenny McKinley to extend the Gamecocks lead to 17-3.
Vanderbilt tried to answer. George Smith snared a 44-yard reception from Chris Nickson to put the Commodores in South Carolina territory but Bryant Hahnfeldt missed the 43-yard field goal attempt.
Vanderbilt's Marcus Buggs recovered a fumble at the South Carolina 21-yard-line. Four plays later Chris Nickson scored on a 13-yard touchdown scramble to bring Vandy to within 7 at 17-10 as time expired in the first half.
In the third quarter Curtis Gatewood's interception of Newton gave Vanderbilt the ball at its own 46. Bryant Hahnfeldt connected on his second field goal of the day, this time from 27 yards, to pull Vandy to within 4 at 17-13. However, South Carolina answered with a 7-yard run by Syvelle Newton to put the Gamecocks up 24-13. One key play on that drive was a third and long conversion to keep the USC drive going.
After Vanderbilt ensuring drive fizzled, South Carolina scored again on a 15-yard run by Mike Davis to essentially put the game out of reach at 31-13.
Later, Vandy’s Theo Horrocks caused a fumble which was recovered by D.J. Moore at mid field. However, Vanderbilt couldn't convert on fourth-and-one and the ball went over on downs to USC at their 23-yard-line with 8:45 remaining in the game.
Nickson struggled and finished with just 4 completions in 15 attempts for 76 yards and two interceptions. Arizona transfer Richard Kovalcheck completed 7 of 10 passes for 44 yards in relief duty.
"When you give them turnovers and short punts and give them opportunities to score it gets everybody in a poor mood," said a somber Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson. "Chris had trouble throwing it today," continued Johnson.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier improved to 14-0 versus Vanderbilt during his career.
Vanderbilt falls to 3-5 (1-4 SEC) with the loss. Vandy next travels to Duke on Saturday. South Carolina improves to 5-2 (3-2 SEC). The Gamecocks host Tennessee on Saturday.
NOTES- Vanderbilt fullback/tight end Steven Bright was injured in the first quarter. The injury was initially described as a lower leg fracture. However, Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson commented after the game that that diagnosis may have not been correct.
Reshard Langford (L) and Theo Horrocks (R) look on as a fellow Vanderbilt player loses his helmet. (VM/Stan Jones)