FEEDING LATTIMORESouth Carolina is undefeated in Marcus Lattimore's five career games exceeding 150 rushing yards:YEAR // OPPONENT // CAR. // YDS // SCORE2011 Navy 37 // 246 // SC 24-212010 Florida 40 // 212 // SC 36-142010 Tennessee 29 // 184 // SC 38-242010 Georgia 37 // 182 // SC 17-62011 Georgia 27 // 176 // SC 45-42
South Carolina junior tailback Marcus Lattimore rushed for 120 yards Saturday night in a 38-17 win over Kentucky, his highest total since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last October at Mississippi State.
So is Lattimore entering this week's game against No. 5 Georgia as the same player he was a year ago before the injury? Steve Spurrier, the coach of the No. 6 Gamecocks, sure hopes not.
"I hope he's where he was when he ran against Georgia two years ago," Spurrier said with a laugh. "That's where I hope he is, because that was sort of his coming-out day."
Lattimore rushed 37 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns in his second college game as South Carolina defeated the visiting Bulldogs 17-6. He added 184 yards against Tennessee and 212 against Florida later in the 2010 season to lead the Gamecocks to their first Southeastern Conference East Division championship.
Before his injury last season, Lattimore shredded Georgia again for 176 yards. The 6-foot, 218-pounder from Duncan, S.C., has a two-year total of 358 yards against the Bulldogs, rushing for 150 in the fourth quarter alone.
"Lattimore does seem to play even better as the game wears on," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I think defenses are fresh early in the game, and they run faster, hit harder and make less mistakes. As fatigue begins to set in and as a back begins to really finish his runs with some physicality, guys get tired of that.
"People get tired of that pounding, and Lattimore has been able to have enough stamina to pound people."
The Gamecocks needed Lattimore's 94 fourth-quarter yards a year ago to outlast Georgia 45-42 at Sanford Stadium, and he knows another big performance is required Saturday night on ESPN.
"It probably will come down to the end like it usually does," Lattimore said. "Right when we got to the locker room [after beating Kentucky], we said we had to be better this week -- way better this week."
Lattimore entered this year with three career games with 37 or more carries, but his single-game highs this season were 23 against Vanderbilt and again last Saturday. He had just five first-half rushes in Lexington but carried 10 times for 61 yards in an 81-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter that put South Carolina up 28-17.
"I just wait until my number is called," he said. "I'm coached by Steve Spurrier -- six SEC championships and one national championship. He knows what he's doing, and I never question his play-calling."
South Carolina primarily runs off zone reads, but the Gamecocks did use the I-formation against the Wildcats. Lattimore said he prefers up-the-middle runs out of the I-formation but that it really doesn't matter, and Spurrier just wants better running lanes regardless of the offensive set.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are about to delve into round three against Lattimore after allowing 197 rushing yards in last week's 51-44 escape of Tennessee.
"Considering that we were in the lead and at times a two-touchdown lead, Tennessee was patient enough to run the ball and was having success running the ball," Richt said. "If we could have stopped the run a little better, they would have needed to take more risks. At the very end they had to take some risks, and we got a couple of picks and a sack and a fumble recovery.
"We need to shore it up, but Tennessee had two of the finest receivers in America with a third receiver who's pretty darn good, too. So there were some dynamics there that would have made it tough to just sell out against the run."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs began preparations for South Carolina on Monday with a one-hour workout. ... There were no players on the two-deep roster listed on the daily injury report.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.