The Daily Gamecock

Preview: Gamecocks looking to continue winning ways against Vanderbilt

The South Carolina football team (3-6, 1-5 SEC) will look to build on last week's win when it faces off against the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-8, 0-6 SEC) this Saturday at noon.

The Gamecocks come in with a 14-game win streak against the Commodores, last losing to Vanderbilt in 2008. However, sophomore linebacker Stone Blanton said the team isn't fixating on past success.

"We're not focused on those at all," Blanton said. "We know we have to come in, and we have to play hard. It's the SEC, regardless. So, every week is a challenge. Every week has different obstacles that we've got to overcome."

South Carolina snapped its four-game losing streak with a 38-28 win over Jacksonville State last weekend, though run defense continued to be a problem for Gamecocks, allowing 225 rushing yards on 57 attempts. The team escaped thanks to a late interception by Blanton that was returned for a touchdown.

Head coach Shane Beamer said that there is room for improvement and that the team needs to play better this Saturday to win.

"It was not good enough," Beamer said. "And we came in here on Sunday as a team, and we're very clear about that — me to the coaches — that it was unacceptable, and — me to our players as well — that if we play like we did last Saturday, we will not win this week, and we will not win next week, and we will not win the week after. We need to be better." 

Vanderbilt started its season 2-0 but has since dropped the last eight games and has yet to notch a win against an SEC opponent. The Commodores' defense has been a leading factor in the losing streak. Over the past eight games, Vanderbilt's defense has allowed more than 30 points in each matchup.

Last year, South Carolina defeated Vanderbilt 38-27 in Nashville, and redshirt senior quarterback Spencer Rattler and senior wide receiver Antwane "Juice" Wells Jr. connected on two touchdowns for the Gamecocks. Rattler completed 18 of 26 pass attempts for 200 yards and threw three total touchdowns while Wells finished with 110 yards on four receptions.

But Wells will likely not participate in this season's clash, as he continues to recover from a foot injury suffered against Georgia in the third game of the season. Beamer said to not anticipate Wells this weekend and that his status remains "day-to-day."

Rattler will instead look first to fifth-year wide receiver Xavier Legette, who emerged as the top receiver for South Carolina during Wells' absence and returned to full strength against Jacksonville State. This season, Legette has 50 receptions for 973 yards, including five touchdowns, and could soon be the fourth Gamecock receiver all-time to eclipse 1,000 yards, joining the list alongside Alshon Jeffrey, Pharoh Cooper, Sterling Sharpe and Sidney Rice.

Legette was limited to back-to-back games with just 20 receiving yards at the end of October but bounced back with nine catches, 217 yards and two touchdowns last week. Beamer said Legette's success boils down to the work he has put in for the team in five years.

"He's a great teammate, works hard," Beamer said. "How intelligent he is, from a football standpoint, he just — he gets it, and things just make sense to him."

Vanderbilt has struggled with turnovers on the offensive side of the ball, throwing 12 interceptions this season, but its defense has created a lot of turnovers — intercepting 11 passes and recovering three fumbles in 10 games — something the Gamecocks have struggled to do this season.

South Carolina created four turnovers last week against Jacksonville State, but they were the first turnovers for Gamecock defense in a month. Redshirt junior defensive back O'Donnell Fortune said the team is looking to continue its takeaway momentum against the Commodores. 

"Just keeping that same energy," Fortune said. "Like what (Defensive Coordinator Clayton) White says, the turnovers come in bunches. So when Stone got that, and I finished it off, it was great. But coming into the Vandy game, we're going to keep that same momentum."

The Gamecocks must win its remaining three games to become bowl-eligible, starting with the Commodores this weekend, and enter this game as 14 point favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

South Carolina and Vanderbilt will kick off at noon at Williams-Brice Stadium on Nov. 11. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.