Commentary: 2010 Still A Banner Year

While there is still one more game to go in the 2010 season, GamecockAnthem takes a look back on the accomplishments of the 2010 season, both individually and as a team. Despite the loss to Auburn in the SEC Championship game, 2010 will still be remembered as a banner year for the SEC East champs.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock of Saturday's SEC Championship game, there's a wide range of emotions Gamecock fans went through - emptiness, shock, disappointment, frustration, and anger among others. Rightfully so after the Gamecocks were beat down by Auburn in the biggest game in school history. In the post game press conference, head coach Steve Spurrier repeatedly apologized to Gamecock fans for the performance of his team. However, don't let that one game diminish what the Gamecock football team was able to accomplish in the 2010 season.

Let's start with the individual achievements. When you talk individual achievements you have to start with freshman running back Marcus Lattimore. Everyone knew what this young man was capable of, but very few saw it coming so early. In the season-opener Lattimore was steady, rushing for 54 yards and two touchdowns. In a week two 17-6 win over Georgia, Lattimore had his break-out performance. Lattimore carried it 37 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns in his first SEC game. That thrust Lattimore into the national spotlight and he would never look back.

Lattimore was on the verge of having a career night in the sixth game of the season against the Kentucky Wildcats. Lattimore was unstoppable, rushing for 79 yards and two touchdowns while gaining 133 yards and one touchdown receiving in the first half. However, Lattimore was injured on the third play of the second half and was forced to watch from the sidelines as Kentucky stormed back to pull of a huge upset. Lattimore would miss a game for the first time in his football career in a 21-7 win over Vanderbilt the following week.

Lattimore would return to the line-up the following week against Tennessee. With all eyes on Lattimore and his injured ankle he broke off a 40-yard run en route to a 184-yard game to prove that he was back.

Two weeks later - with the SEC East on the line - Lattimore was unstoppable. Florida just couldn't stop him as he rushed for 212 yards and three more touchdowns as the Gamecocks wrapped up the SEC East in a 36-14 win over the Gators.

For the season, Lattimore has rushed for 1,198 yards - first among running backs in the SEC - and a school-record 17 rushing touchdowns and 19 touchdowns overall. Tuesday, Lattimore was named the CBSSports.com freshman of the year and coach's All-SEC team, to go along with AP All-SEC honors Monday.

Lattimore was part of another school-record with another Gamecock. For the first time in school history, the Gamecocks had a 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver with Alshon Jeffery.

Jeffery, who had a career year himself, is another player you have to mention with individual achievements. Jeffery broke the school record for receiving yards in 2010 with 1,387 yards - first in the SEC by a wide margin - shattering Sidney Rice's record of 1,143 yards. His nine touchdown receptions ties him with Zola Davis and Kenny McKinley for sixth in school history. His best performance of the season was the first Auburn game when Jeffery caught eight passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Jeffery joined Lattimore as All-SEC in both AP and Coach's team.

Quarterback Stephen Garcia also enjoyed a superb 2010 season. Garcia moved into third in school history for passing yards during the 2010 season, throwing for 2,816 yards and 20 touchdowns. Garcia is currently fourth in Gamecock history in single-season passing yards and is looking to become only the third quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in a season. Todd Ellis has two 3,000 yard seasons and Steve Taneyhill has one. Garcia would only need to throw for 278 yards in the bowl game to move into second place in single-season passing yards.

After nearly losing his job in the first Auburn game after two fourth quarter fumbles, Garcia responded in a big way. Facing #1 Alabama, Garcia made great decisions. He wasn't asked to win the game for the Gamecocks, just lead the offense and he that in a big way. Garcia was 17-of-20 for 201 yards and three touchdowns, two of which were to Jeffery.

On the other side of the ball, the Gamecock defensive line/linebackers has enjoyed an excellent season despite the inconsistencies in the secondary. The Gamecocks led the SEC and ranks 10th in the nation with 39 sacks, which is also the most in recorded school history (since 1990).

The Gamecock defense was also ranked first in the conference and ninth in the country against the run, despite having to face Auburn phenom Cameron Newton twice. The Gamecocks were averaging less than 100 yards per game prior to the SEC Championship game. That number rose to 104, but still the best in the conference by seven yards per game. The Gamecock defense gave up 1,356 rushing yards this season, which is just under 200 yards from being a school record (1,158) set in 1987.

Several defensive players also earned All-SEC honors. Defensive ends Cliff Matthews and Devin Taylor were each named to the second-team Coach's All-SEC. Taylor also made the first-team AP All-SEC team and Stephon Gilmore received second-team honors.

Matthews finished with 38 tackles, 4.5 sacks, forced three fumbles, six quarterback hurries, and one pass broken up.

Taylor finished fourth in the SEC with 7.5 sacks, nine passes broken up, and also had an interception returned for a touchdown against Tennessee.

Gilmore, despite having one of the worst games of his career in the SEC Championship game, led the team with 71 tackles and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown against Furman.

As a team, the Gamecocks enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in school history. For the first time in program history the Gamecocks knocked off the #1 team in the country with a 35-21 convincing win over Alabama. The Gamecocks also beat the big three in the SEC East - Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida - all by double-digits en route to the first ever SEC Eastern Division title in school history. Carolina also beat Clemson for the second year in a row for the first time in 40 years. Those five teams have a combined 3,596-1,842-235.

At 9-4 Carolina will still have a chance to win their 10th game of the season for only the second time in school history and knock off another traditional powerhouse at the same time when they face Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on December 31st.

While Gamecock fans may be disappointed and upset with the way the SEC Championship game played out, don't let it wipe out all the things this team has accomplished this season. 2010 has been a banner season, 2011 looks to be even better.

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