Gamecocks look to break Commodores’ blockade

Narrow escapes are becoming the norm for No. 10 South Carolina, which has trailed in the second half of all three of its wins to open the season.

The Gamecocks will have to dodge the upset bullet again when they host a Vanderbilt team seeking its first four-game winning streak since 2008. Vanderbilt has been dominant against the run, allowing 85.7 yards per game on the ground.

But the Gamecocks are led by sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore, who leads the nation in rushing after a career-high 246 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 24-21 victory over Navy.

The Gamecocks are trying to start 4-0 for the first time since Lou Holtz led them to a 5-0 start in 2001. South Carolina leads the series 16-4 and has won the past two meetings, including 21-7 at Vanderbilt last year.

Vanderbilt’s four wins in the series have come by a combined 22 points. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier is 16-2 all-time against Vanderbilt.

The Commodores opened SEC play with an impressive 30-7 victory over Mississippi last week in which they intercepted five passes and snapped a six-game SEC losing streak. Vanderbilt’s defense leads the nation with 10 interceptions, a trend the Commodores would like to continue against quarterback Stephen Garcia, who has been prone to mistakes but torched the Commodores for 355 yards last season.

South Carolina is off to a 3-0 start for the third time in Spurrier’s seven seasons. The Gamecocks have won their past two games by a field goal, including 45-42 at Georgia two weeks ago. While Lattimore has been dominant, Garcia and the passing game have struggled to find a rhythm. Garcia has thrown two touchdowns and three interceptions, though he has added three rushing touchdowns.

South Carolina’s defense has come up with its share of big plays but has also allowed an alarming 372 yards per game, including more than 180 rushing yards per contest.

TV: 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2. LINE: South Carolina -16

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