Lattimore, Jeffery potent Gamecocks duo

South Carolina fullback Patrick DiMarco knows one big difference
with two of the Southeastern Conference’s best playmakers on his
side: He’s not as sore after games.

”It makes life a lot easier for me” with tailback Marcus
Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffery, said DiMarco, the Gamecocks’
senior captain.

”I don’t have to go in there and make incredible blocks. I can
just kind of fit under a guy,” DiMarco continued. ”They make
people miss and do things other people can’t.”

Both showed that again in No. 18 South Carolina’s 69-24 rout of
Troy on Saturday. Lattimore had 102 yards and three touchdowns,
while Jeffery caught five passes for 123 yards – all by
halftime.

Lattimore also set South Carolina’s single-season touchdown mark
with his 17th, 18th and 19th scores, and Jeffery moved past
Gamecocks great Sidney Rice for the school’s best-ever receiving
yardage year.

Lattimore’s yardage pushed him past 1,000 on the season, the
first time South Carolina’s had a runner and receiver break that
barrier in the same year.

The pair are the two biggest reasons South Carolina will play
for an SEC crown at the Georgia Dome in two weeks. And many
analysts thought both would be better off in more successful
programs.

Jeffery had originally committed to Pete Carroll and Southern
Cal and had then-Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin hot on his heels. But
he surprised many by staying close to home.

Jeffery broke out against Kentucky last season, catching three
touchdown passes. He ended his freshman season with 763 yards on 46
catches, six for scores, and has taken off to become the SEC leader
in yardage and catches per game this year.

Lattimore was one of the country’s top high school running backs
at Byrnes High last fall and had Auburn, among others, chasing him
down. He, too, selected the Gamecocks, echoing coach Steve
Spurrier’s sentiments of wanting to achieve special things at a
football program that hasn’t had too many of them since first
playing in 1892.

”Marcus ran like he always does,” Spurrier said after the Troy
win.

”Alshon was also very good today,” the coach went on, ”as
usual.”

The combo showed their potency on South Carolina’s third
touchdown drive, which followed a fumble by punter Will Goggans.
Jeffery caught a 24-yard pass in traffic from quarterback Stephen
Garcia, then Lattimore broke through for a 5-yard TD run to push
the Gamecocks ahead 21-0.

Troy defensive back Caleb Massey said the Trojans were
blindsided by South Carolina’s offensive firepower. ”I feel like
we just got awe-struck at the game, playing a big SEC school,” he
said. ”Things didn’t go our way.”

Garcia said Lattimore’s addition has opened things up at South
Carolina.

”I hand the ball to Marcus and let him run all over the
place,” Garcia said. ”It helps you out a lot. It helps the
offensive line and everyone else come together.”

And it may be Spurrier’s recipe for winning an SEC title.

Jeffery was the SEC leader coming into the weekend in yards and
receptions per game. He has 1,210 yards and 70 catches, and is
seven grabs away from tying the late Kenny McKinley for South
Carolina’s record.

”It’s a great accomplishment,” Jeffery said of his
record-setting season. ”But great doesn’t mean anything unless
you’re winning.”

South Carolina is certainly doing that. The Troy win gave it
eight victories in a season for just the 10th time in program
history. The air grows even thinner for the Gamecocks after that,
who count just one nine-win and one 10-win season in their
resume.

A championship in college football’s toughest conference? That’s
success South Carolina has never seen and an achievement that looks
more plausible with every carry or catch.

”It just speaks on our balance,” Lattimore said. ”We can hurt
you with the run, and we can hurt you with the pass. That’s really
hard to stop.”