NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Now Steve Spurrier trails only Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most Southeastern Conference wins by a coach. Better yet, his 14th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks shook off a hangover to win their third straight game.
Dylan Thompson threw for 237 yards and three touchdowns, and he ran for another score as South Carolina rallied from 14 points down Saturday night to beat Vanderbilt 48-34.
Spurrier now has 202 Southeastern Conference wins, breaking a tie with Vince Dooley and putting him second only to Bryant (292). Spurrier also got his 20th win all-time against the Commodores.
The Gamecocks (3-1, 2-1) started slow coming off their 38-35 win over Georgia in their first road trip this season. They got going by scoring 17 points in the second quarter, part of 24 straight points that gave them the lead for good, and beat Vanderbilt for a sixth straight time in this series.
Darrius Sims returned two kickoffs for touchdowns for Vanderbilt. The Commodores (1-3, 0-2) pulled to 34-27 with 5:57 left but couldn’t get closer.
Vanderbilt already has played the most combined freshmen in the country, and the Commodores lost starting quarterback Patton Robinette to an apparent injury after he threw a TD pass for a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter. Freshman Wade Freebeck replaced Robinette, and he drove the Commodores to two field goals by Tommy Openshaw in the second half.
It just wasn’t enough against the Gamecocks who answered with two TDs in the final 4:35. Pharoh Cooper set up the first, a 1-yard TD plunge by Thompson, with a 70-yard run off the wildcat after Vandy pulled within 34-27.
Thompson finished 22 of 34 passing with his TD passes to three different players as he completed passes to seven receivers. South Carolina outgained Vanderbilt 449-379 in total offense, and the Gamecocks turned two turnovers into 14 points, including a 53-yard interception return by Brison Williams late in the first half.
Sims tied an NCAA record in the Football Bowl Subdivision with his two TDs off kick returns in the same game, the 18th time that’s happened and first since 2012. He returned the opening kick 91 yards for a TD and then took Vanderbilt’s first kickoff in the second half 100 yards to pull the Commodores within 24-21.
Vanderbilt got the start first-year coach Derek Mason needed off Sims’ kickoff return. Robinette made it 14-0 with an 8-yard TD pass to C.J. Duncan in the final minute of the first quarter. Vanderbilt held the ball for more than 9 minutes and outgained the Gamecocks 86-30.
Then Robinette went to the locker room with an apparent injury after he started 4 of 5 for 55 yards. Freebeck came on, and the Commodores stalled.
The Gamecocks took control scoring with a 45-yard field goal by Elliott Fly, a 29-yard pass from Thompson to Damiere Byrd for a TD. Vanderbilt was driving when Freebeck threw off his back foot and was intercepted by Williams.
Vanderbilt had its chances to recover three fumbles in the second half only to see the Gamecocks get the ball back each time.