Somebody not named Alshon Jeffery led the team in receiving yards in Saturday's 24-21 win for tenth-ranked South Carolina against a tough Navy team. In fact, Jeffery was not even thrown to until 10 seconds remaining in the first half and did not have a reception until the second half.
Meet Nick Jones.
Jones, a redshirt freshman from Moore, South Carolina had 52 yards on three receptions to lead the receivers in the game. Jason Barnes led the team in receptions with four and finished behind Jones in yards with 48.
After being criticized for targeting Jeffery too often, quarterback Stephen Garcia found seven different players and no player had more than four catches. Jeffery finished the day with just 35 yards on two receptions.
"We were trying to get all of them a little bit more involved," head coach Steve Spurrier said. "Nicky Jones and Jason Barnes both played extremely well."
Jones' first reception was a huge one. Trailing 14-7 in the second quarter, Carolina faced a third-and-fifteen from their own 39-yard line. Garcia found Jones streaking down the Gamecock sideline and hit him with a 34-yard completion in a drive that would end in a Marcus Lattimore touchdown.
"Nicky Jones came in and made some nice catches," Spurrier said. "Especially that one right before the (first) half on about third-and-(fifteen). Stephen zipped that one in nicely."
The second reception of Jones' career would also go for a first down, though this time it was only a seven-yard reception on a second-and-six in the third quarter. Jones would get his final reception on the same drive, an 11-yard completion on a second-and-ten. That drive would result in the final points of the game.
"Nick Jones had a great game," Garcia said. "That third down catch was clutch."
Cunningham sets a career-high
Junior tight end Justice Cunningham played a pivotal role in the passing attack, catching a career-high three passes for 34 yards, also a career-high.
Allen has another big night
After having a career night against East Carolina in the season opener, there's little Antonio Allen can do to surprise people. Allen had another solid game against Navy, recording 10 tackles, forcing a fumble, and intercepting his third pass in as many games this season.
"My ultimate goal is to come out, play full speed, and make every play that I can," Allen said. "The interception just fell into my hands. It was a poor throw and I just took advantage of it."
Allen's forced fumble came on Navy's final scoring drive as the Midshipmen was able to jump on the Alexander Teich fumble. Allen leads the SEC with three forced fumbles this season.
Allen's interception, his team-leading second, clinched the win on a fourth down play with a minute left in the game.
Jay Wooten only has two field goals in the first three weeks of the season. Both have been the difference in a win in regulation or overtime game.
"Jay Wooten kicked a big field goal the last play of the (first) half to put us up by three points that we ended up winning by."
Wooten connected on a 49-yard field goal in the fourth quarter last week against Georgia in a 45-42 win. Against Navy, Wooten's 48-yard field goal on the final play of the first half proved to be the difference in the 24-21 win.
Jeffery suspended to begin game
Alshon Jeffery was not on the field when the Gamecock offense trotted onto the field on the opening possession and missed most of the drive.
"Alshon broke a team rule, so I said 'you're not going out the first play, so we'll get you in the fourth or fifth play,'" Spurrier said. "That was that. Other than that, it was just enough to say you're not starting tonight."
Other notes (gamecocksonline.com)
Saturday's Attendance: 78,807
The Gamecocks improve to 3-0 for the third time in head coach Steve Spurrier's seven seasons. South Carolina also began the 2007 and 2010 seasons with a 3-0 record.
South Carolina has won its last five home openers with consecutive wins over Louisiana-Lafayette, NC State, Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss and Navy.
Head coach Steve Spurrier moves to 43-0 all-time against schools outside of the BCS automatic qualifying conferences. That includes a 17-0 mark as head coach of South Carolina.
South Carolina forced a punt on the opening drive - a feat it accomplished in all three games this season.
Conversely, it was the first time Navy has been forced to punt on its opening drive this season. The Midshipmen scored a touchdown on the opening drive of both of their games heading into Saturday.
South Carolina was forced to come from behind in the second half in its third-consecutive game. The Gamecocks trailed East Carolina 24-21 in the third quarter, trailed Georgia 35-31 in the fourth quarter and trailed Navy 17-14 in the fourth quarter before coming back to win.
South Carolina's come-from-behind victory marks the first time that Navy has squandered a lead heading into the fourth quarter under head coach Ken Niumatalolo. In his four seasons as head coach at Navy, Niumatalolo was 24-0 when leading at the start of the fourth quarter prior to tonight.
Jason Barnes and Bruce Ellington both earned their first receptions of the season in South Carolina's second possession of the first quarter. Barnes caught a 14-yard pass, and Ellington caught a 7-yard pass on successive plays.
Stephen Garcia tied his season best with a 34-yard completion to Nick Jones on South Carolina's third possession. It was Jones' first career reception.
Marcus Lattimore's 6-yard touchdown run with 4:47 remaining in the first quarter marked the first time this season that the Gamecocks scored in the first quarter of a game.
The 254 rushing yards for South Carolina were second-most in the Spurrier era. The only time the Gamecocks have rushed for more yards under Spurrier was when the team rushed for 287 yards against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 19, 2009.
Navy entered as the nation's leader averaging 400 rushing yards per game. South Carolina limited the Midshipmen to only 274 yards rushing, a season low.
For the third-consecutive game, the Gamecock defense limited its opponent to seven points or less in the first quarter. Navy and East Carolina both scored seven in the first quarter, and Georgia scored six in the first quarter last week.
Antonio Allen forced a fumble in the third quarter to give him three forced fumbles in South Carolina's first three games. Allen leads the SEC with three forced fumbles.
Antonio Allen had his team-leading second interception of the season with 60 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. South Carolina has had one interception in every game this season.
The Gamecock defense limited Navy to only nine pass attempts and five pass completions, both the lowest marks in Steve Spurrier's tenure as head coach at South Carolina. The 61 passing yards allowed were second-fewest under Spurrier's tenure (49 by NC State on Aug. 28, 2008).
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
Jay Wooten connected on a 45+-yard field goal in each of the last two games. Wooten scored on a 49-yard field goal against Georgia last week before hitting a 48-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter tonight.
The last time South Carolina did not attempt a punt in a game was in a 23-13 win against Wofford on Sept. 20, 2008.
The Gamecocks host Vanderbilt next Saturday at 7 p.m. in a game scheduled to air on either ESPN or ESPN2.
Notebook: Nick Jones leads receivers in win
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