Clamp Down: South Carolina defense powers Gamecocks past Vanderbilt

Gameday in Columbia looks a whole lot different in the rain.

The white boots and short dresses are swapped out for beaters and ponchos. The parking lots are full of more puddles than cars. The stands are empty. The Gamecock Walk is nixed. So much of the great tradition and pageantry was destroyed amidst a 47-6 South Carolina win over Vanderbilt.

Even Cocky’s entrance was changed. He did not enter through the big Cockyboose, which would have torn up the grass, but came in in the box he did for years. OK, well, perhaps that was a welcome reversal.

The other welcome reversal? South Carolina’s defense.

Defensive coordinator Clayton White would be just fine if Columbia turned into Seattle for the next two weekends. If rain is a good thing, then rain against Vanderbilt’s offense is a great thing.

South Carolina (4-6, 2-5 SEC) needed a day like Saturday, a day when all the elements finally turned in their favor. The Gamecocks defense had the perfect opponent. The perfect weather. And the perfect result.

In the first half on Saturday, Vanderbilt’s offense ran 29 plays. It had just 53 total yards.

The game was never in doubt. The game was boring. Finally! South Carolina needed a boring win, a dominant win. Some think the Gamecocks should have boat raced Jacksonville State last week. Instead, they needed a late Pick-6 to claim victory.

There was no need for anxiety. No need for Aspirin. No need for a Shane Beamer rant about enjoying the heck out of a win.

Instead, South Carolina played the game it needed to. And now, the Gamecocks are now just two wins away from bowl eligibility with home games against Kentucky and Clemson coming up.

The Gamecocks defense, which didn’t have a takeaway until two late fumble recoveries, was spectacular. They allowed just 234 yards and made the Commodores punt eight times, chasing Vanderbilt quarterback Ken Seals all over the muddy turf.

And that, one could imagine, took a load of pressure off of quarterback Spencer Rattler. The senior turned what could have easily been a slop fest into a showcase, completing 28 of 36 passes for 351 yards, four total touchdowns (three passing) and just one interception.

Rattler was basically the all-time quarterback of a neighborhood football game. He looked free, unhurried, joyful. And he made sure all the kids on the block felt included. Ten different Gamecocks — including DT Alex “Boogie” Huntley, who hauled in a short touchdown — caught a pass.

Receiver Xavier Legette, who was dealing with what the SEC Network broadcast called “deep-ankle bruises,” still reeled in nine passes for 120 yards. Running back Mario Anderson eclipsed the century mark on the ground, including a wild 72-yard touchdown run where he broke a half-dozen tackles.

Even the Gamecocks special teams, which has been woeful at times this season, produced a highlight. Late in the game, redshirt freshman Kennan Nelson Jr. blocked a Vanderbilt punt, scooped it up and ran it into the end zone. It was the first time in a while you could yell, “Beamer Ball” and not be sarcastic.

For weeks, Beamer has reiterated the same mantra to his players. “They remember November,” he’ll say.

The fans may remember this November, but they will not remember Saturday. And that is a great thing.