Gamecocks win SEC thriller, 45-42

Marcus Lattimore continues to make a statement for the 2011 Heisman Trophy, Melvin Ingram scored two touchdowns, and Antonio Allen scored a defensive touchdown for the third time in the last five games as South Carolina won a thriller between the hedges, 45-42 over Georgia on Saturday.

South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore had his coming out party in last year's match-up with Georgia in Williams Brice, a 17-6 South Carolina win.

This year it was time for another freshman running back to emerge on the scene.

Georgia's Isaiah Crowell's, the true freshman running back, rushed for 118 yards and his first career touchdown run on 16 carries and also caught two passes for another 40 yards and his first career touchdown reception.

However, Lattimore was a little bit better. Lattimore rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries as the Gamecocks won another shootout, this time a 45-42 victory over the Bulldogs in Athens in front of 92,746 fans Saturday night. With the win, the Gamecocks improve to 2-0 on the season while the Bulldogs fell to 0-2. More importantly, Carolina is 1-0 in the SEC while Georgia – the team most experts expect to battle for the SEC East championship with the Gamecocks – are 0-1.

"This was a good win for us," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said. "Give Georgia credit, they outplayed us but we were fortunate to win. That's how football is sometimes. We had some big plays and had a few defensive scores, which helped us out a lot."

It looked as if Crowell was going to get the last laugh in the battle of stud running backs. His 15-yard touchdown run with 6:28 left in the game gave Georgia a 35-31 lead. Carolina had struggled to have a sustained drive all night and Georgia now had all the momentum.

What they didn't have was Marcus Lattimore.

After a 30-yard pass from Stephen Garcia to Ace Sanders had the Gamecocks in Georgia territory, Lattimore broke loose for a 36-yard run – his longest of the night – all the way down to the Georgia two. Two plays later Lattimore took a pitch around the right side and burst into the end zone to give the Gamecocks the lead for good.

"We weren't going to forget about him," said Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. "He gives us our best chance to win. At the beginning, there wasn't much room to run there because Georgia's line was able to stuff us. It opened up some in the second half and he was able to move the ball. He's a great back and we had to keep going to him. He gives us hope to make any kind of run."

"It was a big drive late in the game and we took back momentum," receiver Alshon Jeffery said. "We never came from behind before, so that was good. To win games you have to finish in all three phases -- defense, offense and special teams."

On the very next offensive play for the Dawgs, Jadaveon Clowney came through untouched forcing Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray to lose the ball. Melvin Ingram, who had already made his presence known, scooped it up and ran it in for a touchdown to give Carolina a 45-35 lead with 3:12 left in the game. The two touchdowns came in a 16 second span.

Just when you thought the game was over, Murray hit Tavarres King for a 33-yard touchdown with 2:15 left in the game to make things interesting. Ingram would jump up and snatch the onside kick attempt and Lattimore would carry for a first time to allow the Gamecocks to run out the clock.

Crowell made his presence known early. Crowell rushed for 15 yards on the first play of Georgia's second drive, then ran for 28 more on the next play. The Carolina defense would hold tough after that, but Georgia was well in field goal range as Blair Walsh kicked a 37-yard field goal to get the Dawgs on the board first.

On the following drive, Bacarri Rambo picked off Garcia at the Gamecock 42 on the third play of the drive. Crowell broke a 13-yard run to move inside the Gamecock 30. Three plays later, Devonte Holloman made what could have been a touchdown-saving tackle on Crowell to force Georgia into a 39-yard field goal to give Georgia a 6-0 lead after a quarter.

After a Gamecock three and out, Murray found Bruce Figgins for a 25-yard gain on the first play of the drive to move the Dawgs into Gamecock territory again. Crowell took a direct snap on third down and ran around the right side for a first down inside the Carolina 25. The Gamecock defense held again, and Walsh uncharacteristically shanked a 33-yard field goal attempt to the left. That would prove to be a devastating blow for Georgia.

The two teams would trade punts and the Gamecocks would take over at their own 47. After three Lattimore runs sandwiched around a Garcia fumbled snap, Garcia rolled right and saw Jeffery deep down the field in one-on-one coverage. Jeffery hauled in the pass in the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown strike to give Carolina a 7-6 lead.

It wouldn't take Georgia long to answer. Aaron Murray did his best Cam Newton impersonation, slicing through an effortless Gamecock defense for 23 yards on second and long. After picking up a first down on the legs of Samuel, Murray found Rantavious Wooten behind C.C. Whitlock for a touchdown to put the Dawgs back on top, 13-7.

That's when the Head Ball Coach pulled out the bag of tricks. Facing fourth and seven from their own 32, Ingram - the up-back - took the snap, rolled to the left and avoided a Georgia defender at the line of scrimmage. After that it was smooth sailing as Georgia returner Brandon Boykin wanted none of the defensive lineman, diving at his legs with Ingram easily jumping over him. He rambled 68 yards for the score to give the Gamecocks the 14-13 lead heading into the locker room.

Georgia would score the first points of the second half to jump right back on top. After a nice Joey Scribner-Howard punt – one of several great ones including a 59-yard punt in the first half – Branden Smith took it 32 yards to the Carolina 43. On the first play, Murray found Crowell on a screen for 23 yards to the Gamecock 20. Three plays later Murray hit Crowell on another screen for a 17-yard touchdown to put the Dawgs back on top.

After a three and out, Georgia took over from their 43 and a pass interference on Stephon Gilmore moved the ball into Gamecock territory. Crowell fumbled the exchange from Murray on the next play, with Gilmore picking it up and racing 56 yards to the Georgia five. Two plays later Garcia scored from eight yards out to give the Gamecocks the lead again, 21-20.

After a Georgia holding penalty on their first play of the ensuing drive, Murray threw over the middle, but Antonio Allen picked him off and raced for a 25-yard touchdown and a 28-20 lead heading to the final quarter. For Allen, it was his third touchdown in the last five games, including the last three consecutive regular season games.

Georgia showed they still had fight left in them on the following drive behind the arm of Murray. Murray completed all eight of his pass attempts for 85 yards and found Michael Bennett over the middle for a 19-yard score. Murray found King on the two-point conversion try to tie the game at 28-28 early in the fourth quarter.

Lattimore broke off a 24-yard run on the following drive to move the Gamecocks into Georgia territory, and Garcia would find Jeffery on a quick slant to convert a fourth and three to keep the drive alive. The drive would end with a 49-yard field goal from Jay Wooten to give Carolina the lead back at 31-28 that would set up the wild finish.

Murray completed 19-of-29 passes for 248 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes with one interception. He was sacked twice, both by Clowney. Malcolm Mitchell had five catches for 52 yards, Bruce Figgins had three for 36 yards, and Michael Bennett had three catches for 24 yards and a touchdown to go with Crowell's 40.

Richard Samuel had 11 carries for 43 yards to go with Crowell's 118.

Garcia didn't have his best performance, completing 11-of-25 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions to go along with 24 rushing yards on six carries and a touchdown. Jeffery had five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown, while Sanders had three catches for 43 yards.

Scribner-Howard had an excellent night punting, punting it six times for an average of 44.8 yards and a long of 59.

South Carolina will open its home schedule next weekend, hosting Navy at 6:00 at Williams-Brice Stadium. It is the first of a four-game homestand.


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