Pass-happy Spurrier glad to go to Lattimore
Run it up has a new meaning for South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier this season.
Spurrier, who never met a pass-pattern he wouldn't call, gladly kept handing off to untested freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore in a 17-6 win over Georgia on Saturday.
Lattimore rushed 37 times for two touchdowns and 182 yards, the second-highest rushing total ever for a Gamecock freshman.
South Carolina (2-0, 1-0 SEC) improved 11 spots to No. 13 in the Top 25. Georgia fell out of the rankings from No. 22.
Southeastern Conference opponents might have to get used to Spurrier's running style. South Carolina's head ball coach says he'll continue calling Lattimore's number when the situation dictates. And Lattimore ran the ball at the most crucial moments in his first SEC contest against Georgia.
He got the ball near the goal line twice, each time delivering with 2-yard scoring runs. Then in the fourth quarter and Georgia (1-1, 0-1) down 14-6, Lattimore ran eight of 11 plays and gained 56 yards on a clinching field goal drive.
''I don't think I've ever had a running back break as many tackles as Marcus did yesterday,'' Spurrier said Sunday.
That's high praise from a coach who's sent stars such as Errict Rhett and Fred Taylor to the NFL during his championship run at Florida.
Lattimore might one day rank among them if he keeps performing like this. He was one of the country's top running backs at Byrnes High and had most SEC programs chasing him last winter. But the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Lattimore wanted to play close to home, turning down Auburn to join the Gamecocks.
So far, it's been all he's imagined.
South Carolina coaches have seen the hard work he's put in, Lattimore says. ''I just want to play and produce and help the team anyway I can,'' he said. ''They know that.''
His teammates have noticed, too. Quarterback Stephen Garcia could sense Lattimore's excitement at facing Georgia. The results - the 182 yards rushing rank second alltime for a South Carolina freshman - proved what the Gamecocks had watched throughout fall practice. ''To play like he did was huge for us,'' Garcia said.
Spurrier says it's nothing new for him to use talented backs to put the game away. He recalled Rhett getting a school-record 41 carries on a sloppy, rain-soaked field to put away Georgia, 33-26.
A few years later, Spurrier called on Taylor to run a Citrus Bowl record 43 times for 234 yards in a 21-6 victory over Penn State to end the 1997 season.
And with Lattimore's success against Georgia, running the ball ''appeared to be the best way to put it away,'' Spurrier said.
Not that Spurrier's given up on his beloved pass attack. He grimmaced when fullback Brian Maddox couldn't collect a Stephen Garcia pass that would've been a wide-open touchdown. Spurrier slammed down his notes in disgust in the second half when Garcia took a sack for a loss of 14 yards with the game still not out of Georgia's reach.
Sophomore wideout Alshon Jeffery continued to show promise with seven receptions for 103 yards, his second straight game over 100 yards.
Garcia finished a tidy 12 of 17 for 165 yards, but took five sacks, something Spurrier has groused about for two seasons.
That's got to change, Spurrier said, because South Carolina likely can't count on Lattimore against the SEC heavyweights such as Alabama and Florida to come.
''We've got to get better in the passing game,'' Spurrier said.
Right now, though, the Gamecocks are happy to have Lattimore.
''If we win, I could throw three passes and it doesn't matter,'' Garcia said.