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.''