Marcus Lattimore got going. Vanderbilt’s offense never did.
The Commodores failed to get in the end zone and lost 21-3 at No. 12 South Carolina on Saturday, the first loss of the James Franklin era.
After a sluggish start, Lattimore, the nation’s leading rusher, finished with 150 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. His first score — off a 52-yard screen pass from Stephen Garcia — gave the Gamecocks (4-0, 2-0 SEC) momentum and a 14-3 lead with 13 seconds left before halftime.
It also was more than enough to bury Vanderbilt (3-1, 1-1). The Commodores had more penalty yards (79) than total yards of offense (77). After gaining 281 rushing yards last week against Ole Miss, they amassed just four yards on 25 carries.
Quarterback Larry Smith was sacked six times for losses that amounted to 42 yards and lost two fumbles, one of which directly led to South Carolina’s first touchdown. He also threw an interception and finished 12 of 16 for 44 yards.
He left the game with 2:08 in the third quarter after taking a hit while trying to recover his second fumble. He did not return and backup Jordan Rodgers replaced him, going 4-of-7 for 29 yards.
Vanderbilt had just five first downs — compared to South Carolina’s 17 — and was 1-of-14 on third-down conversions. Entering the game, the Commodores ranked 116th out of 120 teams, completing just 24 percent (10-of-41) of their third downs.
The defense, however, kept the Commodores in the game. They intercepted Garica four times, upping their nation-best mark to 14. Senior Casey Hayward had two and raised his career total to 12, tied with Corey Chavous (1994-97) for fifth-in school history.
Hayward returned his second pick 24 yards to South Carolina’s 22-yard line. When the Commodores settled for a 33-yard Casey Spear field goal they led 3-0 with 1:43 left in the first quarter.
They later failed to capitalize on an interception by Andre Hal early in the second quarter. In fact, they opened the door for the Gamecocks.
On third-and-seven at their own 39, Smith was sacked by Jadeveon Clowney, who forced a fumble. It was recovered by South Carolina’s Antonio Allen, who darted toward the end zone. Vanderbilt receiver Wesley Tate hustled to knock the ball loose. It went bouncing into the end zone only to be recovered by South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram for a touchdown with 11:59 in the first half.
Vanderbilt marched down to the Gamecocks’ 29-yard line on its next drive but went backward from there. A sack and an eight-yard loss on a pass from Smith to Zac Stacy forced the Commodores to punt. Richard Kent finished with a season-high nine punts.
Vanderbilt looked like it would go into halftime trailing by just four points but one defensive breakdown doomed the Commodores. On South Carolina’s own 48-yard line, Garcia found Lattimore in the backfield on a short screen pass. The 6-foot, 232-pounder turned it into a big score, breaking several tackles on his way to the end zone. He later added the dagger scoring on a 21-yard run midway through the third quarter.
The Commodores will have plenty of time to regroup as they head into the bye week before hitting the road again to play at No. 3 Alabama on Oct. 8. The Crimson Tide routed No. 16 Arkansas 38-14 on Saturday. Dating back to 1993, Vanderbilt has lost 11 straight to Alabama. The two teams last met in 2007.