Gamecocks survive Navy ground assault

The University of South Carolina coaching staff can breathe easier now that it survived its meeting with an always pesky Navy squad. The Midshipmen, possibly the best triple option team in the nation, entered Williams-Brice Stadium on the heels of a 400-yard rushing performance one week earlier.

While it didn't manage that total, Navy gave the Gamecock defense fits as it scored the first touchdown of the game and held a four-point lead late into the third quarter.

USC had its own weapon to combat the Midshipmen, however, in sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore. The consensus National Freshman of the Year in 2010 rushed for a career-high 246 yards. He also tied a personal best with three rushing touchdowns.

"Obviously Marcus (Lattimore) had a tremendous game," said USC coach Steve Spurrier. "We figured the best way to try to win the game was to just hand it to him and keep blocking."

Although Navy rushed for 274 yards, it was the lowest output of the season for the Midshipmen. If there was a positive for the Gamecocks, they got several stops in the second half when they desperately needed them. Senior Spur Antonio Allen came up game clinching with an interception which stopped Navy's final drive.

Senior quarterback Stephen Garcia continued to struggle, although his numbers were better. He completed 18 of 25 passes for 204 yards. He suffered a crucial second half interception, however when it appeared the Gamecocks were headed for a touchdown.

On defense USC appeared confused in the first half, but played much better in the second which allowed the Gamecocks to continue their offensive game plan or giving their opponent a heavy dose of Lattimore.

Winning its second straight nail-biter can be tough on a coach and a team's fan base, but Spurrier has become accustomed to it.

"It was a typical game I guess when we play a team that runs the triple option," said Spurrier. "They stayed on the field a while, but we stopped them at the end. I told our defensive guys that I was really proud of our defense for stopping them in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line."


--Sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore continues to impress as he put the USC offense on his back and carried it. In rushing for 246 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries, he managed to keep his team in a tough game in which time of a possession was crucial. He also caught four passes for 25 yards. Lattimore added 16 pounds of muscle in the offseason to prepare for games like this as no other USC back had a carry.

--Redshirt freshman Nick Jones appeared to be the forgotten man during spring and fall practice. But, with USC coach desperately seeking a number two receiver to complement All-American Alshon Jeffery, Jones stepped up against Navy catching three passes for 52 yards. Senior Jason Barnes, who had been relegated to the bench after a sub-par performance in the season opener against East Carolina, also had a nice day with four receptions for 48 yards.

--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, Georgia 35-31 in the fourth quarter and Navy 17-14 in the fourth quarter before coming back to win. Their come-from-behind victory marks the first time Navy has squandered a lead heading into the fourth quarter under 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.

--PK Jay Wooten has connected on a field goal of 45 or more yards in each of the last two games. After hitting a 49-yarder against Georgia last week, he drilled a 48-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter against Navy. South Carolina also did not attempt a punt against the Midshipmen. The last time that happened was against Wofford, also a triple option team on Sept. 20, 2008.

KEEP AN EYE ON: RT Rockevious Watkins -- Although the senior had was hit with two penalties against Navy, he continues to improve. The Gamecocks normally send running back Marcus Lattimore to his side when they are in need of crucial rushing yards and he almost always delivers. He has become an All-Southeastern Conference caliber player that appears destined to become a first day selection in the 2011 National Football League Draft.

LOOKING GOOD: Although it had its down moments during the first half, the defensive line was much more active in the second half in attempting to combat Navy's triple option attack. Freshman DE Jadeveon Clowney was particularly active. Although he did not record a sack he was particularly active in harassing Midshipman quarterback Kriss Proctor. Senior Melvin Ingram also continued to perform at a high level.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Although the senior quarterback Stephen Garcia completed 18 of 25 passes for 204 yards, the USC passing attack continues to struggle in clutch situations. More receivers -- senior Jason Barnes and redshirt freshman Nick Jones -- stepped up in an attempt to take pressure off All-American Alshon Jeffery. While that was good, the team continues to struggle to get the ball to Jeffery who caught only two passes for 35 yards.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If you look at Auburn last year, they came from behind several times. They did it against us as well. That's what we've been focusing on the whole offseason: playing well in the fourth quarter and getting out of there with a win. We're pretty happy we're 3-0 right now." -- South Carolina senior quarterback Stephen Garcia.



--SPUR Antonio Allen continues to impress as the leader of the USC defense. He not only led the Gamecocks with 10 tackles, but forced and came up with the game winning interception as Navy was driving late for a possible go-ahead touchdown. He has two touchdowns three forced fumbles and a fumble return for a touchdown in the Gamecocks first three games and leads the squad in tackles.

--WR Alshon Jeffery was held out for the opening play against Navy for what coach Steve Spurrier described as a violation of team rules. He caught only two passes for 35 yards. Through USC's first three games he has only 12 catches and has scored only one touchdown.

--PK Jay Wooten has been a pleasant surprise as the position was viewed as a question mark entering the season. After being in the capable hands of now graduate Spencer Lanning for three seasons, the Gamecocks allowed several athletes to battle for the spot and Wooten came out the winning. After hitting a key 49-yarder against Georgia, he drilled a 48-yard attempt against Navy. He is two-for-two in that department and has yet to miss an extra point.

--RB Marcus Lattimore continues to insert his name all over the USC record book. His 246 rushing yards against Navy is the fourth highest total in school history. He is number six in career touchdowns with 24, had his seventh career 100-yard rushing game and is the first running back in the SEC to rush for more than 200 yards in a game this season. His three touchdowns marked the fourth time has had four rushing touchdowns in a game. He now has 1,731 career rushing yards which ranks 19th on the school career list.


-- Coach Steve Spurrier announced following the Navy game that freshman OT Brandon Shell will be redshirted.

--WR Alshon Jeffery was held out of the first play for breaking a team rule.

--WR Damiere Byrd will have to serve out the remainder of his four-game suspension by the NCAA after the appeal by USC was denied.

--CB Victor Hampton is now eligible to play after serving his three-game suspension. He should be in line to receive immediate playing time.

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