(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
By Willie T. Smith/The Greenville News
Columbia, SC - What appeared to be a walk in the park transformed into something else for No. 14 South Carolina in its Southeastern Conference game against Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
After racing to a 28-point lead, the Gamecocks watched it shrink to 10 before regrouping to old off the Commodores for 35-25 victory.
The Gamecocks, who earned their first league win and are 2-1 on the season, had to hold their breath in the fourth quarter.
An interception by cornerback Jimmy Legree in the USC end zone stopped the Commodores from getting closer with 8:41 remaining. From that point, the Gamecocks offense managed to hold on to the football, thanks to the running of Mike Davis, Brandon Wilds and Connor Shaw.
After a week of criticism that followed their loss to Georgia, the Gamecocks opened against the Commodores with fire.
After winning the toss and deferring its possession to the second half, USC stopped Vanderbilt without a yard on its initial possession.
Led by Shaw, the Gamecocks drove 42 yards on six plays with an 11-yard Shaw-to-Nick Jones pass play giving it a 7-0 lead with 10:50 remaining in the first.
The USC defense gave up one first down to the Commodores on their second possession before forcing a second punt.
The offense continued to hit on all cylinders as it went 93 yards on 11 plays with tailback Mike Davis capping it off with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Another Vanderbilt punt allowed the Gamecocks to begin their third straight touchdown drive. This time, led by Dylan Thompson, they went on a 76-yard drive with Thompson going the final three yards for the score to give Carolina a 21-0 advantage.
The Gamecocks scored again for a 28-point advantage and then made a mistake that allowed Vanderbilt to get off the mat.
A Thompson pass was intercepted by Steve Clarke, who returned it to the USC 1. Running back Jerron Seymour scored from there to give Vanderbilt its first points.
Vanderbilt ended the half with a 54-yard field goal to trail 28-10.
The Gamecocks have an open week before traveling to Orlando, Fla., to take on Central Florida on Sept. 28.