Vanderbilt had it all Thursday night.
A near-capacity crowd produced an electric atmosphere. It was big-boy ball against No. 9 ranked South Carolina.
There were shiny new upgrades to the stadium. New lights to see by. A new scoreboard you can read from Hillsboro Village. New turf manufactured and manicured for opening night.
The Commodores had a number of chances to upset the Gamecocks, a team that failed to impress and came far from matching its preseason billing.
“Maybe it was good for us,'' South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier sighed after escaping with a come-from-behind 17-13 SEC win.
“This preseason stuff. … We about got that stuff beat out of us. We had some good fortune and Vanderbilt didn't have much good fortune.''
Spurrier took time at midfield to compliment Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin's team.
“They were fast. They're good. They don't have any slow dudes like the used to.''
Spurrier was right. Vanderbilt is improving. It is a roster that is adding more SEC type players with each Franklin recruiting class.
But after losing similar SEC games last year, the Commodores are still searching for that first signature win under Franklin.
Vanderbilt safety Jevon Marshall has been in the program three years.
He's getting tired of getting close, only to come up short in the end and having to deal with it.
“We're getting better,'' Marshall said. “It's hard losing tough games. We have to fix it. We have to finish.''
It's a sad refrain that Franklin is trying to find the solution for.
How close are they?
“We are very, very close,'' Marshall said. “It's the little things. We just have to take care of the little things that get you beat. We need to take that next step and we will.''
Vanderbilt played a South Carolina team whose offense was out of sync and leaned on its top play makers, running back Marcus Lattimore and quarterback Connor Shaw.
Lattimore, a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, earned 110 yards and two touchdowns against a determined and hard hitting Vanderbilt defense. It was Lattimore's first game since undergoing ACL knee surgery last season.
“I knew they were going to be tough,'' Lattimore said of Vanderbilt defense. “Their (defensive) line is always going to give 100 percent on every play. Their linebackers were good. They lived up to their hype. It's a great team that is going to have a great season.''
Shaw was in and out of the lineup after suffering what was described as a shoulder contusion on his throwing arm.
The 6-1, 207-pound junior picked up 92 yards on 14 carries and completed 7 of 11 of 6 passes for only 67 yards and one interception.
“That shows what kind of person (Shaw) he is,'' Lattimore said. “It's his guts. He's our leader. He was hurting bad, but he was not going to go out of the game.''
Shaw picked up a key first down on the final possession of the game to prevent Vanderbilt from getting its hands on the ball.
“He told me he could get it,'' Spurrier said. “He slid in there and picked it up. That was big. Vanderbilt would have had some time left if he hadn't made it.''
Instead, Vanderbilt was saddled with another bitter pill to swallow. All signs point to a day they will finally cross that barrier against a quality SEC team.
“At some point, we are going to find a way to get the job done,'' Franklin said. “We had a top 10 opponent down to the last second and had a chance to win.''
Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.