COLUMBIA — With a white towel draped over his face, Marcus Lattimore brought his hands up and cried. Not again.
Some fans chanted his name to give encouragement, but Williams-Brice Stadium was mostly in stunned silence.
No. 17 South Carolina would get a 38-35 victory over Tennessee behind a career day from Connor Shaw and huge stops late by the defense, but it came at a high cost. Lattimore sustained a serious knee injury for the second year in a row. He is out indefinitely.
“Good things are going to happen for Marcus,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “I don’t know exactly where or how, but good things are going to happen for Marcus Lattimore … Hopefully he’ll be back. Maybe he’ll be back next year. Maybe it won’t be quite as severe as it appeared on the field out there.”
The injury occurred when two Volunteers tackled Lattimore and a helmet made contact with the back’s knee. He knew something was wrong right away, as he immediately grabbed his right knee after the play ended.
Lattimore was eventually helped to the cart as both teams walked out onto the field to show support. The running back previously tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Mississippi State on Oct. 15, 2011. Lattimore missed the rest of the season.
Saturday’s injury happened on Lattimore’s first carry after a 28-yard touchdown run that was vintage Lattimore, where he used a cut to find the end zone in the second quarter. It was his 41st career touchdown.
After losing on the road to Louisiana State University and Florida in consecutive weeks, South Carolina returned home ready to feel good again.
Though the Gamecocks lost Lattimore, they did end the slide. Shaw threw for a career-high 356 yards and three touchdowns. He also added a rushing touchdown as South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) never trailed.
Shaw completed 22 of 32 passes, with a fourth-down interception the only blemish.
The Gamecocks went ahead by two scores four times, only to see Tennessee rally. Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns.
But when South Carolina needed it most, Jadeveon Clowney came through with a big play. Tennessee had a first down at the South Carolina 19 with a little more than a minute to play when Clowney forced a Bray fumble, recovered by Shaq Wilson.
“I knew they were going to go five wide to attempt to get the ball down the field, so I just had to get off the ball full speed,” Clowney said.
The Volunteers (3-5, 0-5) got the ball back with 36 seconds left at their 16, but Victor Hampton secured the win with an interception.
Tennessee, which had 472 yards of total offense, turned it over on its last two possessions.