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September 14, 2013

Legree's play seals win

It is not often that in a game with so many offensive highlights for South Carolina that a defensive highlight would overshadow them all.

After taking a commanding 28-0 lead over Vanderbilt Saturday night, it would be a big defensive play by senior Jimmy Legree that secured the win for the Gamecocks.

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After scoring on their first four possessions the Gamecock offense cooled and then the special teams failed. As Vanderbilt crept back into the game, it was a Jimmy Legree interception on the goal line that would be the biggest play of the night for the Gamecocks.

There are times a scoring line will not tell the entire story. There are times that it will. Looking at this one quarter-by-quarter might give the impression that the Commodores turned this game on its head, that they took the game over from the Gamecocks. Leading 28-0 early in the second quarter, 28-10 at the half and 35-10 just minutes into the third quarter, no one could have anticipated that Vanderbilt would have had the opportunity to draw to within three points with eight minutes remaining in the game, but that is exactly what happened.

Drawing from its limited offensive successes in the second half, the Commodores were able to score two touchdowns, a two-point conversion, and have the ball inside the Gamecocks' five-yard line. It should be pointed out that the Commodores longest scoring drive of the game was 49 yards. In fact here are their scoring drive distances in order: 1 yard, 46 yards, 49 yards and 19 yards. The drive that ended in a Jimmy Legree interception began at the USC 36-yard line and ended at the Gamecock four-yard line. Turnovers on offense and special teams put the defense in a difficult position. Someone had to step up, and that someone was Legree.

"It felt good," Legree said of his game0saving interception.

What else did he need to say?

"The receiver came out in a wide split," Legree explained. "It's very rare that he would go that wide and run a fade route. They usually run a slant. So I just took a chance and went and made a play."

Legree pulled from his experience. He read the play. He jumped the route. He picked it off. The Gamecocks won.

"It was a big pick for us, no doubt," said defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. "We've studied (Vanderbilt) and they have not run a slant (route) the entire season. So we played our DBs, especially on the goal line, to the outside to guard against the fade because that's what they've shown us.

"Jimmy told me that the receiver had a wide spread and he played the odds and played inside. That's experience. That's something we like to see from a senior all of the time."

Legree agreed with his defensive coordinator and is well aware of his role on this defense and as a senior. He understands that his younger teammates may look to him for guidance. They need to pull from his experience as well.

"I feel like my job as a leader is to motivate the younger guys," Legree said.

"Sometimes they get down on themselves when they're not playing too much. I just tell them to wait your turn and to get you head up."

One moment. One play. It can change a ball game. Those moments were beginning to snow ball in Vanderbilt's favor. A fumbled kick off by Shon Carson. A wayward ball finds T.J Gurley's leg on a punt. A Jimmy Legree pick ends a scoring threat. Two of these plays changed the momentum of the game. The other won it.

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