Gamecocks Top No. 1 Tide

In what will go down as one of the best days in the history of the University of South Carolina's football program, the Gamecocks defeated the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide 35-21 with a national CBS audience watching and the ESPN GameDay crew on the historic horseshoe. South Carolina improves to 4-1 (2-1 SEC) and Alabama falls to 5-1 (2-1 SEC).

South Carolina fans have seen it all before. With seemingly the chance of a lifetime – A chance to break through and be mentioned among the SEC's elite. A chance for a historic win with the entire college football nation watching. And a chance to be recognized nationally as a true contender in the always-competitive SEC East.

But too many times before in the history of the South Carolina program, the Gamecocks let such opportunities pass them by.

"Give fate a chance," was the Gamecocks motto this week, Steve Spurrier said, and they did just that.

With the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide ripe for an upset – Alabama was facing its third straight ranked team and was being marketed by some as perhaps the best Alabama team of all time – the Gamecocks finally took one of those big-time opportunities, looked it in the face, and took it to the house.

"Our guys played their hearts out, a lot of outstanding individual plays and we held on and got a few breaks here and there," Spurrier said. "That is the best our offense has played ever since I've been here without a doubt. We scored five touchdowns out of about eight real possessions."

Stephen Garcia looked like the quarterback he was recruited to be. The redshirt junior completed 17-of-20 passes for 3 touchdowns and just 1 interception in what Spurrier would call the best outing of his career.

"How about that against the No. 1 defense in about every category?" Spurrier said. "To score 35 on them and not have to kick a field goal is probably what we are most proud of."

While it was Garcia directing the offense, it was a total team effort on that side of the ball. With two weeks to prepare, Spurrier showed why he's still an elite offensive play-caller as he always seemed to be a step ahead of the Crimson Tide's defense. The 35 points scored were the most against Alabama since it surrendered 41 points to LSU in 2007.

"We've been talking about it for a few weeks, and Coach Spurrier told us to give fate a chance," Garcia said. "So we did. We hung in there, and we responded to every point that they scored. I think what won the game was us responding."

Garcia got help from Alshon Jeffery, who topped the 100-yard mark for the fourth time this season with 127-yards and 2 touchdowns on 7 catches.

"That is a guy you have to keep throwing at," Spurrier said. "When you get a guy that can fall forward for three or four yards, you just have to keep getting him the ball, so certainly that was in our plays. Alshon is a tremendous player."

"You can't say enough about that kid," Garcia added.

Marcus Lattimore was again the Gamecocks' workhorse rushing for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns on 23 carries and catching two passes for 16 yards and a touchdown.

"I'm still dreaming it right now. It's crazy," Lattimore said. "I don't think that it has really sunk in yet, but it is a big win for us."

The South Carolina defense knew coming in that it wasn't going to be able to stop the talented Alabama offense cold, but that it would have to make stops in big situations.

"I Have a lot of respect for Ellis Johnson, their defensive coordinator," Alabama starting quarterback Greg McElroy said. "He made things really difficult for us last year. We had a good week of study. I felt like I was in command. … Unfortunately, they did such a good job. They mixed and matched coverages. They went against their tendencies a little bit. I think they were ready to play and we weren't."

The Gamecocks also knew to knock off the nation's top team that they would have to have good fortunes early.

Alabama took the opening kickoff straight down the field to take an early 3-0 lead on a Jeremy Sheeley 32-yard field goal. But that would be the last time the Tide would lead.

South Carolina answered immediately. The Gamecocks looked just as calm and collected as Alabama taking just 3:07 off the clock on a seven-play, 63-yard drive. After Lattimore went around the left side for 22 yards, a 17-yard strike to Tori Gurley on the sideline set South Carolina up on the Alabama 11-yard-line. Two plays later, Garcia found Lattimore over the middle untouched for the first receiving touchdown of his career to put the Gamecocks up 7-3.

After a stop by its defense, South Carolina took over at its own 38. The Gamecocks quickly drove down to the 33-yard line, but faced a fourth and two in the first potential swing-play of the game. Garcia looked to be stopped on a draw play yet somehow got to the outside and picked up the first down running by a key block from Lattimore. Sensing some momentum, the Gamecocks went for the end zone as Garcia hit Jeffery for the 26-yard strike.

"That was unbelievable," Spurrier said of Garcia's throw. "He had a guy under him and a guy over him, and that was the only spot he could possible throw it, and Alshon of course made a great catch."

Just two plays later McElroy was hit by a blitzing Antonio Allen. The ball popped into the air and defensive tackle Travian Robertson jumped on it.

Three plays later Garcia hit Jeffery again for a 15-yard touchdown as the Gamecocks pushed the lead to 21-3 – the second largest Alabama deficit of the Saban era.

But the Tide would not give in. After taking over with 1:57 to go in the half, McElroy calmly directed Alabama 41 yards for a touchdown with just :44 left in the half. The extra point was missed, but Alabama seemed to have the momentum it needed as the half ended with Carolina up 21-9.

After the best start possible to the first half, the Gamecocks started the second half in the worse way imaginable. The second snap of the drive flew over Garcia's head and bounced down inside the five-yard-line. Rather than falling on the ball or picking it up and throwing it away, Garcia tossed it out of the back of the end zone for a safety to cut the score to 21-11 Alabama.

The kickoff was then returned to midfield. After an Ingram run followed by a catch and run down to the South Carolina 35, the defense stood strong and avoided disaster as Alabama had to settle for a 39-yard field goal.

But a Williams-Brice crowd of over 82,000 fans that had seen so many South Carolina leads evaporate away before, was noticeably nervous as the lead was cut to 7.

"I tried to keep an even keel throughout the whole game," Garcia said.

And unlike so many times before, this Gamecocks team answered right back.

In possibly the most important drive of the game, South Carolina methodically marched 82-yards on 15 carries while milking 7:55 off the clock. Spelling Lattimore, who was taken out briefly to have his wrist checked, senior Brian Maddox rushed for 30 yards on the drive to help put Carolina in position. Lattimore eventually returned, ripped off an 11-yard gain to the Alabama 2, then dove into the end zone two plays later to put the Gamecocks up 28-14.

A Darius Hanks 51-yard catch-and-run for touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter again cut the lead to 7 points. And the Crimson Tide appeared to be in business again after a Garcia third-down pass glanced out of Jeffery's hands and Will Lowery corralled it for a diving interception.

The South Carolina defense held, forcing Alabama to attempt a field goal. But Saban gambled and unlike so many times before, this time it didn't pay off. Holder and back-up quarterback A.J. McCarron's pulled the ball and rolled to his left on the fake but his pass bounced off the hands of Ed Stinson, who had South Carolina linebacker Tony Straughter shadowing him the whole way.

"I think they had momentum after the interception, and then they missed that opportunity to take advantage of it," Garcia said. "I think that was the turning point in the game."

South Carolina would face its own fourth-down situation just moment later. On his own 35-yard-line, Garcia pushed forward on the keeper to pick up the inches needed for the first down.

"The only thing I heard [was] Ellis (Johnson) said go for it," Spurrier said of the decision.

Three plays later he hit Jeffery on a fade down the sideline as the SEC's top receiver hauled it in, spun off a tackle, and barreled down to the Alabama 6-yard-line. Three plays later, Lattimore put a stamp on the Gamecocks historic victory putting them up for good 35-21. The win was South Carolina's first ever against a No. 1-ranked team, and possibly the biggest in school history.

"Championships are always the biggest [wins]," Spurrier added when asked where the win ranks in his career, and possibly hinting at bigger opportunities for this team.

With the win South Carolina remains tied atop the SEC East with just one loss.

The loss was the first in the regular season for Alabama since 2007 and the first for Crimson Tide starter McElroy since he was in the eighth grade.

"I talked to McElroy after the game and he said, ‘We'll see you guys again,'" Garcia said. "I thought that was a really nice compliment from him. I think that after the loss at Auburn, all our team goals are still there. We just have to play this well every single week. We'll celebrate tonight and tomorrow, but come Monday it's all about Kentucky."

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