Lattimore has 3 TDs in SC's rout of Troy
By PETE IACOBELLI
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina needed less than a half to put to rest any worries that it would follow it's latest big win with another unbelievable letdown.
Marcus Lattimore had three touchdowns and 102 yards rushing by halftime to lead the 17th-ranked Gamecocks to a 69-24 victory, its biggest point total under Steve Spurrier and the most it has scored in 15 years.
"We knew we had to come out and play and we did that," Lattimore said.
A month ago, the Gamecocks were the talk of college football after stunning then top-ranked Alabama 35-21. They were the sport's main topic a week later, too, when they blew a 28-10 halftime lead to lose at Kentucky.
Before Saturday's game many at Williams-Brice Stadium wondered, would the SEC East champions lay another egg against Troy?
"Yeah, that's what we talked about all week," Lattimore said. "Just show our fans we can play two games straight because we didn't do that last time."
There's likely little chance of letdowns ahead for South Carolina, who face bitter rival Clemson next Saturday and then No. 2 Auburn in the SEC title game on Dec. 4.
"I feel like our guys will be ready to give it their best shot. That's all we can ask of them," Spurrier said. "It's a lot more fun when there's a lot on the line."
The Gamecocks (8-3) clinched a spot in the title game with last week's 36-14 victory at Florida, the program's first win in Gainesville, Fla., in 13 tries.
A couple of thousand fans waited at Williams-Brice for their return that night, a celebratory scene liable to swell heads. The Gamecocks, though, stayed focused throughout the week and showed their determination to make this a special year.
"Practice was a lot better, a lot more focused," quarterback Stephen Garcia said. "It was good to see us perform the way we did today."
Lattimore and the Gamecocks ended the doubts early as he scored on runs of 17, 8 and 5 yards for a 21-0 lead less than 7 minutes in.
The TD surge gave Lattimore 19 touchdowns, surpassing Harold Green's 16 for South Carolina's single-season mark. Lattimore also moved one TD away from the SEC freshman record of 20 set by Tennessee's Reggie Cobb in 1987.
Troy (5-5) had five turnovers, all which led to touchdowns.
After Troy's DuJuan Harris fumbled the opening kickoff, Lattimore took his first handoff 17 yards for the touchdown. Next possession, he set himself up with a season-long 58 yard run, then ended the series with an 8-yard score.
Moments later, Lattimore was in the end zone again with his 5-yard romp.
Garcia threw two touchdowns and ran for a third. Even the defense chipped in with safety D.J. Swearinger and defensive end Chaz Sutton both running interceptions back for touchdowns.
Sutton's was a 56-yard bolt as the second quarter ended and put South Carolina ahead 56-7, believed to be the most points the Gamecocks ever scored in a half.
It bettered the Gamecocks previous high for points in Spurrier's six seasons, a 52-7 win over Middle Tennessee State in 2006, and was South Carolina's most points since a 77-14 victory over Kent in 1995.
It was only the 10th eight-win season for the Gamecocks, who began playing football in 1892. And Spurrier says there could be more big moments ahead.
"The next two weeks are going to determine what we're ultimately going to be this season," he said. "And we're still pushing. The opportunity's there and we'll see how we can handle it."
Lattimore's yardage gave him 1,066 for the season, the first South Carolina rusher to break the 1,000 mark since Derek Watson in 2000.
South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery had five catches for 123 yards in the first half for 1,210 on the season. He moved past Sidney Rice's 2005 total of 1,143 for the school's single-season yardage mark.
Lattimore and Jeffery became South Carolina's first runner and receiver combo to surpass 1,000 yards each.
Garcia completed 9 of 12 throws for 198 yards in a half of work.
The biggest minus coming out of this one could be Stephon Gilmore leaving with what the team said was a "headache." It was later announced he had a concussion.
Troy entered with hopes of catching the Gamecocks peeking too far ahead. Plus, the Trojans are comfortable going toe-to-toe with anyone as shown by their 41-38 loss to current No. 12 Oklahoma State last September.
This time, though, Troy came unglued early. Maybe it was last week's stunning 52-35 loss at home to Florida International that dented hopes of a fifth straight Sun Belt Conference title. Or maybe it was South Carolina playing free and loose after clinching its division.
Little, though, went right for the Trojans. Harris had his early miscue, then punter Will Goggans fumbled his kick attempt, a turnover that led to Lattimore's third TD.
Quarterback Corey Robinson had the two pick-six interceptions. The Trojans had more yards on kickoff returns than offense (46 to 37) in the first quarter. They were outgained by South Carolina in the half, 320 to 136.
"The first half was certainly one of the worst halves of football I've ever experienced as a coach or player," said Troy's 20-year coach, Larry Blakeney. "We acted like we had never seen a football field."
Updated November 20, 2010