Freshman's effort reminiscent of Walker, Rogers

South Carolina freshman Marcus Lattimore (center) had 182 yards on 37 carries and scored twice in the Gamecocks' 11-point win.

COLUMBIA --- My God, a freshman.

Thirty years ago Larry Munson uttered those words when he saw what Herschel Walker was capable of doing with a football in his hands and defenders on his back. On Saturday, it was Georgia that was learning a painful lesson from a new collegiate guppy.

South Carolina freshman Marcus Lattimore looked like the second coming of George Rogers against the Bulldogs. Thirty-seven carries for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Lattimore ate up 50 yards, including the last 2 over the goal-line, on the opening drive of the game. He consumed 56 yards on eight carries in the game-sealing drive in the fourth quarter that clinched a 17-6 victory.

It was a statement performance from both the Gamecocks and the rookie running back from Duncan, S.C., who is, according to his bio, "regarded as an excellent bowler."

Lattimore even convinced the pass-happy Head Ball Coach to dumb everything down to one simple strategy -- give the ball to Lattimore and more and more and more.

"We finally smarted up and said run Marcus Lattimore every play," Steve Spurrier said of his "big-time" running back. "We look back and thought we should have given it to him 47 times with all those pass plays we attempted that didn't go far."

The strategy was so simple even a lummox of a sports writer could figure it out.

"Obviously the way to win the game was like all you guys in the press box say -- 'Why didn't he just run the ball?' " Spurrier said. "So finally with six and a half minutes left, we ran the same play. We had two tight ends and ran Marcus on the left guard and let him go where he wanted."

It became obvious to the Bulldogs that where he wanted to go was just about anywhere there was a crease and an arm-tackle to shed.

Said Georgia coach Mark Richt: "Well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what the story of the game was. No. 21 Marcus Lattimore was certainly the most dominating player in the game."

Saturday felt like another mythic Southeastern Conference giant had been unveiled. Lattimore conjured up images of one-named greats like Herschel and Bo.

"Thirty-seven carries is impressive for a true freshman to come in against a Georgia defense," Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia said. "We always knew he was good. Obviously he was a five-star recruit and a top running back coming out of high school, but to play like he did today was huge for us."

Spurrier isn't worried about the media frenzy his five-star recruit is going to attract after an SEC debut for the ages.

"He's had publicity all his life, so I don't think all the attention he'll get will affect him much," Spurrier said.

Lattimore's performance and the Gamecocks' brilliant start even brought out the devious attitude in Spurrier that has been buried under a few seasons of humbling mediocrity.

The HBC couldn't resist a dig at Georgia's new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and the 3-4 defense that got manhandled up front.

"That little inside zone play, the NFL doesn't run that play," Spurrier said. "That's a new scheme, I guess. I'm sure they knew we'd run it, but they certainly didn't stop it much."

Lattimore was even amused at the way the Bulldogs never came up with a way to stop him.

"We just kept gassing them (up the middle) because they played wide and couldn't figure it out," he said. "I ran that for four years at Byrnes (High School). That's my favorite play."

Grantham didn't put up much defense of his defense.

"He's a good player, and we made him a good player at times," Grantham said. "He obviously made some plays we didn't finish."

By the time they got to the fourth quarter, Spurrier told Lattimore that he was going to get the call every play. With Williams-Brice echoing with chants of "La-ti-more! La-ti-more!" the freshman went for 16, 6, 24, 6, 3, 2 and 1 to carry the Gamecocks to the goal line and ultimately set up the clinching field goal with 1:12 left.

"I heard them cheering my name," Lattimore said. "I was real tired, but that got me up. I was running off adrenaline on that drive because I was dead."

Can the freshman keep up that kind of pace going week after week against SEC competition?

"Today we needed him to carry 37," Spurrier said. "If we need him to against Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida or even Furman ... he came here to run the ball. If you ask him, I think he'll say 37 isn't too much for me."

Said Lattimore: "That (pace) is what I'm used to. I did it in high school."

The most he ever carried in high school was 40 times.

"For 305 yards," he said. "It was a little different."

Spurrier proved he will not hesitate to put the Gamecocks' fate in his star freshman's hands. SEC teams should get used to it.

"I think history will prove that he is one of the best," Richt said.

More

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 18:14