South Carolina somehow escaped Saturday’s thriller with Vanderbilt (2-5, 1-3 SEC).
Thanks to a late touchdown pass from backup quarterback Zeb Noland, USC (4-3. 1-3 SEC) narrowly averted disaster in a 21-20 victory on Saturday in Columbia.
Here are five things we learned in the Gamecocks’ win:
Zeb Noland might be long-term answer at quarterback
It may have only been one drive, but Zeb Noland sure had a heck of an encore to his first action since being forced out of South Carolina’s loss at Georgia a month ago with a hand injury.
Noland completed five of eight passes over a 75-yard, 59-second drive that ended with a go-ahead touchdown to give USC a late win over Vanderbilt.
Head coach Shane Beamer said postgame that starter Luke Doty’s foot wasn’t quite feeling 100% (more on that in a second). Beamer and the staff debated taking him out the drive before Noland was ultimately thrust into the contest. In all, it amounted to another glowing moment in the whirlwind career that has been Noland’s time at South Carolina.
Beamer added that he’ll evaluate the quarterback situation after watching film, but if Saturday was any indication, Noland sure looked like he deserves a chance to start when USC heads to Texas A&M next week.
Luke Doty perhaps not as healthy as we thought
Sticking on quarterbacks, you have to credit Doty for fighting through whatever pain he’s dealing with.
Beamer has said for weeks that his starting signal-caller is starting to get more and more comfortable with putting pressure on and running on the foot that held Doty out for a chunk of fall camp and the first two games of the season.
Saturday, though, was the first major indication onlookers got that the former Myrtle Beach High School star is still laboring.
It’s not clear if Doty aggravated anything on Saturday, but if his health is an indication, there could be a quarterback change in store next weekend.
ZaQuandre White can be a playmaker
White, like Noland, hadn’t been heard from in a couple weeks. Really, it’d been since the season opener against Eastern Illinois that the former Florida State tailback had a major impact.
With Kevin Harris briefly banged up and Juju McDowell unavailable for Saturday’s game due to what Beamer called an “accountability issue,” White led the Gamecocks in rushing with 65 yards on 12 attempts.
South Carolina had struggled to find a consistent running game through four games. Over the last two, however, the Gamecocks have gone for at least 117 yards in meetings with Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
If White can keep the form he found on Saturday, he should factor into the offensive equation down the stretch.
Xavier Legette could have a role going forward
While White shined in his chances, so too did receiver Xavier Legette.
Legette, who was involved in a motorcycle crash a few weeks back, told reporters postgame he still had open wounds from the accident. But with his cuts bandaged up, the dynamic receiver caught the game-winning score at the tail end of Saturday’s contest.
Legette finished his night with four catches for 31 yards — the second most of each among all Gamecocks pass catchers on the night. His six targets also trailed only Josh Vann and Jaheim Bell.
Dakereon Joyner has struggled some this fall and South Carolina was without Jalen Brooks due to a personal matter on Saturday, per Beamer. With Brooks expected back next week and Joyner flashing a bit against Vanderbilt, Legette could be another piece to an increasingly intriguing receiver room.
South Carolina continues to be gritty
It sure hasn’t been pretty, but South Carolina has already doubled its win total from a year ago and matched that of the 2019 season.
Granted that comes with the caveat the Gamecocks only played SEC games last fall and weren’t afforded the usual nonconference cushion that comes with a normal year. That said, South Carolina has found ways to win ugly and close.
Victories over East Carolina and, on Saturday, Vanderbilt were gritty, teeth-clenching wins. The Troy game two weeks back was also uncomfortable in spurts.
The schedule gets harder from here on out with Florida, Missouri, Texas A&M, Clemson and Auburn still left on the slate. But if South Carolina can keep itself away from the self-inflicting wounds that put it in the situation it found itself in on Saturday, the Gamecocks ought to be optimistic late in games the rest of the way.