The Daily Gamecock

Preview: Defense will play crucial role in South Carolina's match up against Vanderbilt

South Carolina football looks to earn their first SEC win of the season this weekend against Vanderbilt at Williams-Brice Stadium. 

“Nobody’s happy about being 3-3," Gamecock football head coach Shane Beamer said ahead of Saturday's matchup. The team suffered a conference lost to Tennessee last weekend and looks to rebound against divisional opponent Vanderbilt.  

The Gamecocks hold a massive 26-4 lead in the all-time series and have won the previous 12 meetings. The largest margin of victory came in 1995 when USC beat Vandy 52-14 under coach Brad Scott. 

Vanderbilt enters the game 2-4 on the season. The team's wins against Colorado State and Connecticut were both by less than five points. 

The Commodores also hired a new head coach in the offseason, former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea. Lea grew up in Nashville and graduated from Vanderbilt in 2004 with a degree in political science. While at Notre Dame, Lea’s defense was the driving force to a 12-1 record for the Irish in 2018 and a playoff birth. 

“Ive got a lot of respect for Clark Lea, their new head football coach, somebody that I've followed his career for a long time and think a lot of personally,” Beamer said of Lea. “His stamp on that program is very evident, they’re playing with great effort defensively." 

Lea spoke about how both teams are in a similar position in his media availability Tuesday saying,  “I think it’s two teams that are going to be fighting for a win on Saturday that have experienced varying levels of disappointment and, but also are improving and finding identity through the year.” 

Lea also commented on his team's strategy for their match up against the Gamecocks.

“It’s going to come down to the one-on-one matchups on the perimeter. There’s an ability to be dynamic for South Carolina’s offense that we’re going to really have to be on our game defensively and be alert to where the playmakers are,” Lea said.

The commodores rank last in the SEC in passing and second-to-last in rushing offense. Meanwhile, the Gamecock defense continues to produce turnovers. 

Vanderbilt is tied for 123rd in the nation in turnovers on the offensive end of the ball. The Gamecocks remain in the top 10 in the country for turnovers forced, an honor the team has kept throughout the season. 

Beamer noted the Commodores have two of the top ten wide receivers in the SEC in receptions, which the Gamecock defensive backs will be looking to exploit. 

Beamer called on fans to make the atmosphere at Williams Brice a good one for homecoming weekend saying, “Excited about being back home this weekend, homecoming, would hope that we would have a fantastic crowd out there on Saturday.”

The Gamecocks play host to the Vanderbilt Commodores at 4 p.m. EST at Williams-Brice Stadium on the SEC Network.