Freshman's play not enough for Vanderbilt at South Carolina

Saturday, October 24, 2009 at 10:25pm
Staff reports

Freshman Warren Norman returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and set up a field goal with his running, but Vanderbilt lost 14-10 to South Carolina on Saturday.

Vanderbilt drove to the South Carolina 23 with fewer than two minutes to play, but – following an intentional grounding penalty – failed to convert a fourth-and-32. South Carolina then ran off the final 1:40 and sealed the victory.

The defeat snapped a two-game Vanderbilt win streak in the series.

Norman led the Commodores (2-6, 0-5 in the Southeastern Conference) with 83 yards rushing on 15 attempts. He carried five times and accounted for all 39 yards on a seven-play drive, which ended with a 21-yard Ryan Fowler field goal and gave VU a 10-7 lead with 8:55 to play in the third quarter,

He has rushed for a team-high 543 yards on the season and is the sixth freshman in school history to top 500 yards.

Norman’s kickoff return for a touchdown – his second of the season –came after South Carolina (6-2, 3-2) scored the game’s first touchdown, a 35-yard touchdown pass from Stephen Garcia to D.L. Moore.

It was the second-longest kickoff return in school history. Preston Brown took one back 100 yards against Ole Miss in 1977.

Norman also had a 76-yard return for a touchdown at Army two weeks earlier. Thus he became the first Vanderbilt player with two kickoff returns for touchdowns in a career, let alone a season.

Neither team committed a turnover, but the Gamecocks had a 432-257 edge in total offense. They scored the game-winning touchdown when Garcia threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery early in the fourth quarter.

Garcia finished 22-33 for 313 yards and two touchdowns. VU’s Larry Smith completed 17 off 34 for 132 yards.

The Commodores were held to 10 points or fewer for the fifth time in as many SEC games this season.