STARKVILLE, Miss. South Carolina found a way to win its sixth game of the season, but there weren’t a lot of smiles afterward.
Tailback Marcus Lattimore sustained a knee injury during USC’s game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. The sophomore standout sprained his left knee during a 13-yard run by Bruce Ellington when Mississippi State safety Nickoe Whitley landed on Lattimore’s leg as he tried to tackle Ellington.
USC coach Steve Spurrier said Lattimore’s knee will be evaluated to determine the severity of the injury, but the gloomy looks of coaches and teammates didn’t bode well.
“We’re like a family. When one of us gets hurt, all of us get hurt,” senior defensive end Melvin Ingram said. “We just want all of our brothers to be there.”
Running back has been a position rocked by injuries all season. Shon Carson sustained a season-ending knee injury against Georgia, Kenny Miles has missed the past four games with a sprained wrist, and Eric Baker is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle.
Spurrier hopes Miles, a junior, will be close to returning following USC’s bye week. “Hopefully, he’ll be back in two weeks,” Spurrier said. “It’s been bothering him. He can’t catch a pass. He can’t block.”
If Lattimore and Miles aren’t able to play, the load will fall to true freshman Brandon Wilds, a former Blythewood High star.
“Brandon Wilds is very good back. He’s ready to go,” Spurrier said.
But it’s safe to say none of the backups will bring what Lattimore does. Lattimore appeared to be one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy after the first three games, when he rushed for 534 yards. But he has failed to top 100 yards in three of the past four games.
The 6-foot, 232-pounder was held to 39 yards on 17 carries by the Bulldogs, although he did score on a 4-yard run. He has 818 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the season.
Lattimore on Saturday became the 15th player in school history to rush for 2,000 career yards; he has 2,015 on 412 carries.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw knows the anxiety that comes with an injury of this nature. “It’s frustrating and scary,” he said.
He also understands what the loss of one of the nation’s top running backs can do to an offense.
“Everybody knows Marcus is an impact player for this team,” Shaw said. “It’s unfortunate, but that’s the game of football sometimes.”