Vanderbilt was ready for Kenny Miles.
The South Carolina running back, who rushed for 102 yards against the Commodores last year, was held to just 25 yards on 11 carries Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium.
Now, if only the Commodores could have figured out how to stop Brian Maddox.
The senior running back didn’t blow by the Vanderbilt defense but his career-high 146 yards, coupled with 100-yard receiving nights by two South Carolina receivers, was enough for the No. 19 Gamecocks to defeat the Commodores 21-7.
“We thought we had them figured out and then they got into a two-minute type offense, changing different personnel, getting different guys on the field and they caught us off guard,” Vanderbilt linebacker John Stokes said. “It is frustrating.”
With the win, South Carolina (5-2, 3-2) took sole possession of first place in the SEC East. The Gamecocks and Vanderbilt (2-5, 1-3) were the only two teams in the division with just two conference losses before Saturday.
Miles replaced Marcus Lattimore at running back after Lattimore injured his ankle last week against Kentucky. The Vanderbilt defense stuffed Miles and the South Carolina offense early. The Commodores had four sacks and allowed just 10 rushing yards in the first half.
Maddox, however, was inserted midway through the second quarter and made a big impact on South Carolina’s go-ahead scoring drive.
With the game tied 7-7 late in the third quarter, the Gamecocks put together a 93-yard drive that took 12 plays and nearly five minutes. Maddox ran it in from two yards out with 3:17 left in the third quarter and took the lead for good. The 5-foot-11, 229-pounder rushed seven times for 49 yards on the drive. When Maddox wasn’t taking the handoff, quarterback Stephen Garcia was connecting with wide receiver Tori Gurley. The duo hooked up four times for 42 yards on the drive.
Vanderbilt had a chance to tie the game early in the fourth quarter after blocking a field goal.
But the offense sputtered again as the Commodores went three-and-out and on two straight possessions.
“They were putting pressure on the quarterback,” Vanderbilt wide receiver John Cole said. “But really things just weren’t clicking.”
South Carolina pulled away on a 72-yard touchdown pass from a scrambling Garcia to Alshon Jeffery that gave the Gamecocks’ a 21-7 lead with 6:41 remaining in the game.
“I turned my head for a minute and boom all of a sudden it’s gone,” Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell said of Jeffery’s touchdown. “That was a great play. We had (Garcia) there in the backfield… they found a way to get it to (Jeffery). He is a big strong athlete so trying to stop him at all is very difficult. But the defense did a good job most of the night.”
South Carolina took advantage of Vanderbilt’s zone blitzes as Garcia hit receivers on short screen passes for a chunk of his 355 passing yards. It was the first time in school history that South Carolina had two 100-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher in the same game. Gurley finished with a career-high 13 receptions and 109 yards and Alshon Jeffery had nine catches for 158 yards.
Vanderbilt scored first on a 12-play, 83-yard scoring drive in the second quarter.
Quarterback Larry Smith played a hand in all of the big plays on the march. He scampered for nine yards on a third-and-8 to keep the drive going early, then, several plays later, connected with a wide-open Cole down the far sideline for a 35-yard gain to the South Carolina 5-yard line. Three plays later, Smith scrambled to the outside and just reached inside the far pylon for a 3-yard touchdown run to give Vanderbilt a 7-0 lead with 10:24 left in the second quarter.
Vanderbilt's defense played a nearly perfect first half until the last minute of the second quarter. South Carolina got the ball at its 41-yard line with 1:03 left and quickly moved down the field thanks to a bevy of short passes – all to the left side of the field. Garcia was 5-for-6 on the drive for 47 yards. He hooked up with Gurley four times, with the last connection going for a 15-yard touchdown pass near the back of the end zone. That tied the score with 12 seconds left in the half.
“I think it was big,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said of the score. “We didn’t have anything going. That wasn’t the way it was drawn up but our guys made plays.”
• Defensive tackle and junior captain T.J. Greenstone played after missing his last three games due to an ankle injury. Senior center Joey Bailey, also a captain, missed his first game this season due to a high ankle sprain. Freshman Logan Stewart started in his place.
• Vanderbilt has lost eight straight SEC games at home. The Commodores' last victory came on Oct. 4, 2008 against then-No. 13 Auburn. That was also the last time Vanderbilt defeated a ranked opponent.
• South Carolina snapped a seven-game losing streak in SEC road games, which also spanned more than two years. Prior to Saturday, the Gamecocks had lost two of their last three contests against Vanderbilt.
“Vandy plays us tough all the time,” Spurrier said. “It is always a struggle against these guys.”
• During the first quarter, Vanderbilt and Vice Chancellor David Williams paid tribute to Rajaan Bennett. Bennett, a four-star recruit, signed to play running back at Vanderbilt in February. But later that month, the 18-year-old was killed when his mother’s ex-boyfriend fired shots in the Bennett family’s home in Powder Springs, Ga.
On Saturday, Williams, along with Vanderbilt freshmen Chris Boyd, Andrew Bridges, Grant Ramsay and Kyle Woestmann – all from the Atlanta area – presented Bennett’s mother, Narjakeytha, and the Bennett family a portrait of Rajaan. The painting was done by Atlanta native Jessi Reel and commissioned by the parents of Vanderbilt’s 2010 signing class.