Steve Spurrier has decided to embrace his cardiac kids. He doesn’t have a choice apparently.
After two weeks of bemoaning his team’s penchant for living dangerously, South Carolina’s head coach was tickled Saturday night to get out of Williams-Brice Stadium with a 24-21 win over Navy.
“I’ve lost enough three-pointers in my day to (not) come in here sobbing and crying,” he said. “I’m happy right now. Happy to get a win.”
The No. 10 Gamecocks improved to 3-0 on the back of sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore, who had the fourth-best rushing performance in school history with a career-best 246 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries.
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“The best way to win the game obviously is to put it in his hands, and that’s what we’re doing,” Spurrier said.
Navy (2-1) led 21-17 entering the fourth quarter and wasn’t vanquished until Antonio Allen notched his third interception in as many weeks with 1:00 left in the game.
“Maybe that’s a good sign, who knows, that we are winning close ones,” Spurrier said. “If you have a big year, you always look back at some of those close ones you win. We are happy to get this one behind us.”
Lattimore scored the decisive touchdown on a 7-yard run with 12:45 left in the fourth quarter to cap a 79-yard drive.
Quarterback Stephen Garcia completed 18-of-25 passes for 204 yards, no touchdowns and one interception and completed passes to five different wide receivers. For the second time since 2009, junior Alshon Jeffery didn’t lead the Gamecocks in receptions. Jason Barnes and Lattimore each had four catches. Jeffery, who did not start because he violated a team rule, had two catches for 35 yards, his lowest totals since 2009.
“We know we are pretty fortunate,” Garcia said. “We are going to try to get better. The guys know we have to get better if we’re going to have any kind of year, but sometimes you start slow and get better.”
The Gamecocks didn’t punt and finished with 458 yards. They needed almost every yard of it as Navy and its triple option offense rolled up 335 yards as Richland Northeast graduate Gee Gee Greene rushed six times for 59 yards for the Midshipmen.
The Gamecock defense allowed almost 6 yards per play but held Navy out of the end zone on three of th8e Midshipmen’s final four possessions.
“I don’t know if we can consistently stop anybody,” Spurrier said. “We haven’t all year, but we stopped them in the fourth quarter. That was crucial to win the game tonight.”
The Gamecocks return to SEC action next week when they host Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. The Commodores beat Ole Miss 30-7 on Saturday.
Saturday’s game almost turned against the Gamecocks in the third quarter. South Carolina appeared to be headed in to take a 10-point lead when quarterback Stephen Garcia threw an ill-advised pass under heavy pressure that was picked off by Navy’s Kwesi Mitchell at 9-yard line.
“We put him in position to make a mistake,” Spurrier said. “That was bad on my part. (Garcia) did OK, I think.”
Five plays later, the Midshipmen faced third-and-10 but managed to convert it with a 33-yard pass to Bo Snelson. It was just the fourth pass of the night for the Midshipmen, and it was their second-longest completion of the season.
That sparked an 11-play, 91-yard touchdown drive that put Navy up 21-17 with with 3:35 left in the third quarter.
“This is a game you can lose,” Spurrier said. “That clock keeps running when you play a team like Navy. We still have a lot issues. We have issues everywhere, but we have won a couple by three points.”
Nick Jones, Jason Barnes
|Score by quarters||1||2||3||4||FINAL|
Navy: Howell 27 run (Teague kick), 7:43.
USC: Lattimore 6 run (Wooten kick), 4:47.
Navy: Proctor 5 run (Teague kick), 13:50.
USC: Lattimore 5 run (Wooten kick), 8:05.
USC: FG Wooten 48, :00.
Navy: Teich 2 run (Teague kick), 3:35.
USC: Lattimore 7 run (Wooten kick), 12:45.
|Time of Possession||28:45||31:15|
Navy, Teich 15-93, Proctor 17-68, Greene 6-59, Howell 4-32, Snelson 2-15, Staten 2-4, Diggs 1-3. South Carolina, Lattimore 37-246, Garcia 6-10, Team 1-(minus 2).
Navy, Proctor 5-9-1-61. South Carolina, Garcia 18-25-1-204.
Navy, Snelson 1-33, Aiken 1-16, Andrews 1-8, O'Boyle 1-2, Teich 1-2. South Carolina, Barnes 4-48, Lattimore 4-25, Jones 3-52, Cunningham 3-34, A.Jeffery 2-35, Ellington 1-7, A.Sanders 1-3.