It's becoming the norm around Columbia and the South Carolina program; Marcus Lattimore is rewriting the school record book. A week after breaking Sidney Rice's freshman touchdown record with his three touchdown runs against the Florida Gators in the SEC East Division championship victory, Lattimore rushed for three more touchdowns - all in the first quarter - as the Gamecocks ran out to a 28-0 first quarter lead before cruising to a 69-24 victory over the Troy Trojans Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice stadium.
"Marcus ran like he always does," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said.
"I hand the ball to Marcus and let him run all over the place," quarterback Stephen Garcia said. "It helps you out a lot. It helps the offensive line and everyone else come together."
With the three rushing touchdowns, Lattimore now has 17 rushing touchdowns on the season, surpassing Robert Brooks' school record of of 15 set in 1987. Lattimore's 19 touchdowns overall passes Robert Brooks' 17 in ‘87. He is also just one touchdown away from tying the SEC record for freshman touchdowns with Tennessee's Reggie Cobb in 1987.
"It makes me feel good to have set the record," Lattimore said, searching for the words to say. "It's not much to do with the record; it's just a big thing for our team. It's been the offensive line giving me a push and getting me in the end zone."
Lattimore's first touchdown came easy enough. After Troy fumbled the opening kick, Lattimore got the call on the first play and he took it off the left side untouched for a 17-yard touchdown run to give the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead.
On the next possession, Lattimore got the call on the second play of the drive and took it 58 yards all the way down to the Troy 8. Lattimore would score his second touchdown of the quarter on the next play, giving the Gamecocks a 14-0 lead.
After Troy fumbled the snap on a punt, the Gamecocks took over on the Trojan 29. After a long completion from Stephen Garcia to Alshon Jeffery, Lattimore got his third touchdown of the quarter, taking five yards for the score. For the quarter, Lattimore had 91 yards on just six carries. Lattimore's day would end after an 11-yard run early in the second quarter took him over the century mark
With Lattimore's 102 yards rushing, he also became the sixth Gamecock to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season and the first to do so since Derek Watson rushed for 1,066 in 2000. His 1,066 yards ties him with Watson for fifth in school history for rushing yards in a season, just behind Duce Staley's 1,116 yards in 1996.
"It was a goal for the offensive line and for the whole offense," Lattimore said of going over 1,000 yards. "We did it. We have to get a few more and beat Clemson (next week).)
Eight is Great
South Carolina won its eighth game of the season for only the 10th time in school history, but the fourth time since 2000. The Gamecocks have surpassed the eight-win mark only twice, winning 10 in 1984 and nine in 2001.
Home Field Advantage
The Gamecocks finished the season 6-1 for the second consecutive year at home and 14 of the last 16. The Gamecocks won their ninth non-conference game in a row.
Winning the Turnover Battle
The Gamecocks forced five Trojan turnovers and only had one turnover. It was the fourth time this season the Gamecocks have won the turnover battle and have won all four of those games and are 18-4 under Spurrier when winning the turnover battle.
First Time on the Field
Six players saw their first action in today's game: Jared Shaw, Matt O'Brien, Matt Grooms, Walker Inabinet, Chris Vaughn and Kevin White.
Lighting Up the Scoreboard
The Gamecocks set numerous records with 69 points on the board.
- It was the fifth-most in school history, surpassing three 68-point games: 1912 vs. Charleston, 1915 vs. Cumberland, and 1995 vs. Louisiana Tech.
- It was the highest point total since a 77-14 win over Kent State in 1995.
- The Gamecocks surpassed the highest total in the Spurrier era in just the first half with 56 points. The most points under Spurrier was 52 against Middle Tennessee St. in 2006.
- 93 combined points is the third-highest in Carolina history. The Gamecocks and Mississippi State combined for 104 points in a 65-39 Gamecock victory in 1995, and East Carolina in 1994 with 98 combined points in a 56-42 loss to the Pirates.
- 56 first-half points is believed to be the most in school history as records before 1950 were not readily available. It was the most in a half since scoring 42 against Kent State in 1995.
- The 28 points in the first quarter were the most in a single game since scoring 35 in a quarter in the 1995 Kent State game.
"We haven't had one here like this since I have been here," Spurrier said. "We scored a whole bunch of points in the first half."
Alshon Jeffery is now the school's single-season record holder in receiving yards after catching five passes for 123 yards in the win over Troy. Jeffery now has 1,210 receiving yards on the season, passing Sidney Rice's 1,143 yards in 2005. He passed Fred Zeigler for eighth all-time in career receiving yards with 1,973.
"It's a great accomplishment," Jeffery said. "But great doesn't mean anything unless you're winning."
Career Day for Ace
Freshmen speedster Ace Sanders scored his first two touchdowns of his Gamecock career. Garcia found a wide open Ace Sanders in the first quarter for a 51-yard scoring strike. Sanders also closed out the scoring with a 15-yard touchdown completion from Seth Strickland. It was the only two catches for Sanders on the day as he finished with two catches for 66 yards. It was Strickland's first touchdown pass of his career.
"He has always been a great receiver," Garcia said. "We just have to get him the ball as much and as often as possible. He can make guys miss and he can run down the field and make catches."
Garcia Moving Up Charts
When you mention the name's Todd Ellis and Steve Taneyhill, you're talking Gamecock passing legends. You now have to put the name Stephen Garcia up there with those two. Garcia completed 9-of-12 passes for 198 yards to move into third in school history in career passing yards with 6,113 yards. Garcia passed Blake Mitchell, who finished his career with 5,592 yards. Taneyhill finished his career with 8,782 yards and Ellis finished his career with 9,953 yards.
The defense scored two touchdowns for the first time since Eric Norwood returned two fumbles for touchdowns in a win over Kentucky in 2007. D.J. Swearinger intercepted his first career pass and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown. Chaz Sutton then picked one off and ran it 56 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half.
"It was nice to see D.J. Swearinger jump in front of a guy after reading the quarterback and make a pick for us," Spurrier said. "Chaz had a good effort. I don't know who knocked it out, but got it out of the air and our raced-them."
Quin Smith had a career-high seven tackles, which led the team. Spur Alonzo Winfield and tackle Byron Jerideau each had career-highs with four tackles.
Ingram Leads in Sacks
Melvin Ingram got the only sack of the game for the Gamecocks, forcing a fumble that led to a touchdown in the second quarter. Ingram leads the team with eight.
Getting On the Ball
The Gamecocks recovered three fumbles against the Trojans: Antonio Allen, Jerideau, and Aldrick Fordham all recovered a fumble.
- Spencer Lanning was 2-for-2 on field goals and has made seven in a row. He was also 8-for-8 on extra points, a career high. He punted four times for an average of 44, with a long of 54.
- Jay Wooten made the first extra point of his career, making the final one of the game.
- Walker Inabinet played for the first time in his career as long snapper, replacing an injured Charles Turner.
- Matt Grooms made his first appearance as long snapper, snapping the final extra point.
Saturday marked the final home game for the Gamecock seniors. Fullback/tight end Patrick DiMarco summed it up well for the fans.
"Thank you," DiMarco said to the fans. "My four years here have been awesome. I've cherished every moment. Playing in Williams-Brice is one of my greatest moments of my career. We've been pretty good here thanks to the fans. I would just like to say thank you and continue being Carolina fans and show off their Carolina pride."
The Gamecocks close out the regular season next week with a trip to face arch-rival Clemson. The Gamecocks will be trying to beat the Tigers twice in a row for the first time in 40 years.
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