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Vandy not interested in moral victories vs South Carolina

September 21, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Vanderbilt Commodores are tired of messages congratulating them for a close game.

Oh, they’re grateful for the support.

They are just looking to more much than play close games.

“No moral victories,” Vanderbilt wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb said. “We play the game to win.”

Vanderbilt received a lot of attention for playing a close game in a 22-17 loss at No. 8 Notre Dame last week, a game where the Commodores had the ball late and a chance to pull out a very big win.

Now the Commodores (2-1) are back home with a chance to take out their frustration in their Southeastern Conference opener against South Carolina on Saturday, and Vanderbilt has a bit of an added incentive having lost nine straight and 16 of 18 to the Gamecocks. Coach Derek Mason noted the last Vanderbilt coach to beat South Carolina was Bobby Johnson back in 2007 and 2008.

“That’s got to change at some point in time,” Mason said. “Why not this week? We’ve got a football team, they’ve got one too. We’ve got a chance to get in a street fight. Let’s go.”

The Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1) have had plenty of time to think since being routed by now-No. 2 Georgia 41-17 on Sept. 8 , a loss that knocked South Carolina out of the Top 25. Their game against Marshall was canceled with Florence hitting the state last weekend, though recent history against Vanderbilt is more than enough to get their attention. Five of the last six games between these teams have been decided by 10 points or less.

“Honestly, Vanderbilt’s got a good team,” South Carolina wide receiver Bryan Edwards said. “If you look at the past two years how close we played them, 13-10 two years ago and I think it was 34-27 or something last year . All touchdown games, so it’s a dogfight when we play Vandy honestly.”

Some things to know about South Carolina and Vanderbilt:

DEEBO FACTOR

South Carolina’s do-it-all senior Deebo Samuel missed last year’s game with Vanderbilt because of a broken leg. The Commodores remember him scoring the Gamecocks’ only touchdown in a 13-10 victory in 2016 in Nashville , and Samuel is even more dangerous now. Samuel even threw a touchdown pass in the loss to Georgia, and he is averaging 6 ½ catches per game to start this season.

EXPERIENCED QUARTERBACKS

Jake Bentley is averaging 259.5 yards passing per game, putting the South Carolina junior fourth in the SEC. That’s just ahead of Vanderbilt senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur who is averaging 251.3 yards. Shurmur threw for 326 yards in the loss to Notre Dame, the fourth-highest total of his career. Both quarterbacks were at the Manning passing academy together.

“Super intelligent, coach’s kid,” Bentley said of Shurmur. “Obviously, just really smart and really knows everything about football. He’s at Vandy, must be pretty smart. He’s a great dude, too. Real down to earth guy that likes to play football.”

STINGY D

Vanderbilt is off to a very good start under new coordinator Jason Tarver. The Commodores rank 15th nationally giving up 13 points per game, and they also can get to the quarterback averaging three sacks per game, which ranks 23rd in the country. They’re also limiting teams to 308 yards per game. In the SEC, only Florida has been tougher against the pass than South Carolina, which is giving up just 157 yards through the air.

EXPERIENCE UP FRONT

Both these teams have plenty of experience on the offensive line. Vanderbilt has a pair of linemen with 30 career starts in left tackle Justin Skule and guard Bruno Reagan. The Gamecocks have five linemen with 81 combined starts led by left guard Zack Bailey with 28. South Carolina has allowed just two sacks this season.

TOP TARGET

Lipscomb leads the SEC with 25 catches this season. The junior receiver has caught at least 10 passes in each of his past two games for Vanderbilt, including 11 at Notre Dame.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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