Lattimore Leads USC Over Georgia
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier brought in Marcus Lattimore to run the ball.
And Spurrier let his prize freshman do it all game against No. 22 Georgia.
Lattimore rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns to lead the 24th-ranked Gamecocks (2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) to a 17-6 victory Saturday.
The Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1) played without star receiver A.J. Green, penalized four games by the NCAA for selling a game jersey for $1,000.
Lattimore carried 37 times in his first SEC game, punching in two 2-yard TDs and sealing things during a long, fourth-quarter field goal drive.
“I’m a little sore,” Lattimore said.
He’ll let the cheers at Williams-Brice Stadium soothe any lingering pain. The fans chanted his name at the end as Lattimore pounded the Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1) again and again.
Get used to it, SEC, because Spurrier sounds ready to ground it out all season.
“Marcus has a knack for finding a little crease,” Spurrier said.
It’s what he can do after hitting the hole that has him leading South Carolina’s offense.
He pushed past the defensive line for his first 2-yard touchdown. Lattimore had two defenders on his back on his next score and dragged them into the end zone for a second 2-yard TD.
He also had yardage on South Carolina’s final scoring drive, starting with a 16-yard run and carrying eight of 11 plays to seal the game with Spencer Lanning’s 24-yard field goal.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” Lattimore said of his carries. “But it pays off for all the hard work.”
It was a complete reversal from most games in the South Carolina-Georgia series. It’s usually a Bulldogs tailback who takes charge and the Gamecocks who play catch up.
This time, Georgia was outgained by more than 100 yards and held without a touchdown for the first time in three years since its last loss to South Carolina, 16-12, in 2007.
The Bulldogs’ best chance to tighten the game came in the third quarter when they drove to the South Carolina 3 while trailing 14-6. But Washuan Ealey fumbled and cornerback Stephon Gilmore recovered to end the threat.
It also didn’t help that Georgia tailback Caleb King missed the game with an injured ankle. Ealey, suspended for last week’s opener, finished with 75 yards.
Bulldogs receiver Kris Durham said it was up to the offense to make plays, no matter who was out there.
“Us as receivers and us as an offense need to try and pick up our game,” Durham said. “But it’s hard without a guy of that caliber.”
Green must also miss Georgia’s next two games, although administrators are appealing the NCAA’s decision.
South Carolina had its own NCAA issues this week, receiving a letter of inquiry about the football program. However, the two players who missed last week’s opening win against Southern Miss in cornerback Chris Culliver and left tackle Jarriel King were cleared to play in this one.
Gamecocks tight end Weslye Saunders, a focus of NCAA investigators this summer for possible contact with agents, remains suspended, although Spurrier has said it was not because of NCAA issues.
Right from the start, Georgia had no answer for Lattimore, the freshman who was considered the country’s top high school running back last winter. He had runs of 16, 10 and 10 on South Carolina’s opening drive that ended with Lattimore’s first touchdown.
Lattimore was back at it right before halftime, giving the Gamecocks a 14-3 lead that Georgia couldn’t match.
Spurrier likes Lattimore’s square posture that keeps him moving forward even after he’s hit. It also helped that Gamecocks called on Lattimore’s favorite zone-read play from high school.
“That’s all I did for four years,” he said.
Lattimore has four touchdowns in two games, two shy of last year’s team-high total.
“He’s a good back, no disrespect to him,” Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo said. “But we weren’t wrapping up, making tackles. We allowed him to get out in space and keep making yards.”
Georgia got a quick start from Ealey, the tailback who was suspended for the Bulldogs’ opener last week. Ealey gained 32 yards on his team’s opening drive, which stalled in the red zone when Orson Charles bobbled a third-down pass from Aaron Murray with running room ahead.
But the Bulldogs’ attack sputtered the rest of the half, managing 13 yards as they went three-and-out three straight possessions.
Georgia finished with 253 yards while giving up 354 to the Gamecocks.