Perhaps the nation was stunned Thursday that Vanderbilt upset South Carolina for the second straight season.
VU coach Bobby Johnson wasn’t shocked in the least.
“I was surprised that so many people thought it would be real hard for us to beat them,” he said. “We beat them last year, and I don’t know why everybody thought they got so much better than we were getting. I was glad to get out there and play the game.”
In 2007, the Commodores stunned the then sixth-ranked Gamecocks 17-6 in Columbia, S.C., beginning South Carolina’s five-game losing streak to close the season.
One USC player lamented losing to “the sorriest team in the SEC.”
The Commodores heard the chatter.
“We’re used to being underdogs,” defensive end Steven Stone said. “They thought it was a fluke, and that motivated us.”
Added tailback Jared Hawkins: “We’re not a blowoff team. We’re going to hit you in the mouth.”
INJURY STATUS: Vanderbilt defensive back Darlron Spead left the game in the second after taking a hard fall out of bounds after intercepting a pass.
Although Spead walked off the field on his own power, Johnson did not know the player’s status after the game.
In addition, VU reserve wide receiver Chris Reinert was carted off the field with 9:40 left in the third quarter with an apparent leg injury. He lifted his thumbs and exhorted Commodore fans as he left the field.
PICKING IT OFF: By intercepting two passes Thursday, Vanderbilt now has 17 in its past 14 games. Spead and safety Reshard Langford had picks for the Commodores.
In addition, Vanderbilt sacked South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley four times Thursday. VU tallied seven quarterback sacks in last year’s win at South Carolina.
GOLD NUGGETS: Thursday’s win was Vanderbilt first-ever on the ESPN flagship station after losing in its seven previous appearances. …VU won its third straight Thursday night game after beating Miami (Ohio) last week and Wake Forest in 2005. …Commodore linebacker Patrick Benoist recorded a career-high 15 tackles Thursday and also posted a quarterback sack. …VU kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt topped the 200-point total for his career Thursday by making a field goal and three extra-point attempts. He needs eight points to become the school’s all-time leading scorer.