After missing most of the second half of the Kentucky game and all of the Vanderbilt encounter with a sprained left ankle, the freshman running back proved he was healthy in the Gamecocks' game against Tennessee on Saturday.
Lattimore rushed for 184 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries, also catching two passes for 26 yards. His performance, along with the play of an aggressive defensive front, allowed South Carolina to claim a 38-24 victory to remain in first place in the SEC East Division.
The Gamecocks are bowl-eligible with a 6-2 overall record and are 4-2 in league play, placing them one game ahead of Florida.
Although his team did not play one of its better games, coach Steve Spurrier was happy to leave Williams-Brice Stadium with a victory.
"We didn't play extremely well," Spurrier said. "We had some really ridiculous, dumb plays today. ... But, with the game close, our guys found a way to pull it out."
While the passing attack did not work as well as in the previous two games, quarterback Stephen Garcia and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery managed to hook up for a 70-yard fourth-quarter touchdown play that came after Tennessee had back to-to-back touchdowns to tie the game.
The defense continued to have problems stopping the pass, allowing 312 yards and three touchdowns through the air. It survived because of an outstanding game from the front seven that held the Vols to 92 rushing yards, while coming up with four turnovers. One resulted in a touchdown when end Devin Taylor returned an interception 24 yards for a score.
If the Gamecocks, ranked 17th in the USA Today coaches poll and 18th in the Associated Press poll, are to have an opportunity to defeat Arkansas on Saturday, it will have to find a way to tighten its pass defense.
"We had some pretty good plays called," Spurrier said of the secondary. "I'm concerned they didn't know what to do. We were playing a lot of man coverage that sort of got beat, but the deep balls are not good. We have to look at that. The deep balls are inexcusable. We gave up a ton of passing yards. We'll certainly keep working on that."
--South Carolina became bowl-eligible and assured itself of no worse than a .500 record for the seventh straight season. That ties the best stretch of non-losing seasons in school history, which was achieved from 1928-34. The Gamecocks also guaranteed at least a .500 record within the conference for the sixth time since joining the SEC in 1992.
--South Carolina won its 13th game in 14 attempts at home, dating to a 27-6 win over Tennessee on Nov. 1, 2008. The Gamecocks have outscored their opponents 410-227 during that period, an average of 13 points per game.
--The 38 points against Tennessee was South Carolina's highest scoring output against the Vols in the 29-game series.
--RB Marcus Lattimore scored his 13th touchdown of the season, tying a school record for freshmen scores set by Sidney Rice in 2005. He is tied for fifth in SEC freshman history with Rice and Emmitt Smith.
Lattimore needs three more scores to tie Harold Green for the all-time USC record. He has rushed for 722 yards, which moves him within 126 of the school freshman rushing record of 848 yards set by Thomas Dendy in 1982.
--South Carolina's four forced turnovers was a season high. The Gamecocks only lost the ball once on an interception. The squad is 16-4 under Steve Spurrier when winning the turnover battle.
GAME BALL GOES TO: DT Ladi Ajiboye -- The senior tied for the team lead in tackles with seven, the most of his career. He also had two tackles for loss and one sack. Coach Steve Spurrier termed it possibly the best game of Ajiboye's career.
KEEP AN EYE ON: CB C.C. Whitlock -- The junior probably will have to step into a starting role against Arkansas as senior Chris Culliver suffered a shoulder injury against Tennessee and will miss a minimum of one game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think he was probably a little more satisfied today. The defense was able to score and get some stops when we needed them." -- Sophomore DE Devin Taylor, on Steve Spurrier's reaction to the defensive performance.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: South Carolina is 6-2 for the second straight season. It will attempt to avoid last year's fate when it immediately dropped three straight before breaking the streak with a regular-season ending win over Clemson. With Marcus Lattimore handling a bulk of the rushing responsibilities the Gamecocks have their most potent running attack in years. That has allowed QB Stephen Garcia to become a more efficient passer. He has completed 70.6 percent of his 194 passes for 1,904 yards and 13 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. Alshon Jeffery continues to lead the wide receivers with 52 catches for 935 yards and seven scores. He is averaging 116.9 receiving yards per game.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The secondary continues to struggle and will be a man down when it faces the high-powered Arkansas attack, led by quarterback Ryan Mallett. Senior CB Chris Culliver will probably miss the game after suffering a shoulder injury against Tennessee. The Gamecocks are allowing 259.9 passing yards per game.
--Starting CB Chris Culliver will miss Saturday's game against Arkansas and could be out for the season with an injured shoulder suffered early in the second half against Tennessee. Junior C.C. Whitlock, who plays extensively, should step into the role.
--Backup DE Chaz Sutton has missed two straight games with a broken bone in his hand. His status is unknown.
--Backup DT/DE Melvin Ingram played despite suffering a broken bone in his hand against Vanderbilt. He had two tackles, including 1.5 sacks, against Tennessee. He is tied for the team lead with 6.5 on the season.