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Lanning shines under the lights

South Carolina junior kicker No. 34 Spencer Lanning makes a field goal to end the half during the Gamecocks games against Ole Miss, at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC, Thursday, September 24, 2009.
South Carolina junior kicker No. 34 Spencer Lanning makes a field goal to end the half during the Gamecocks games against Ole Miss, at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC, Thursday, September 24, 2009. The State Media Company

The South Carolina special teams finally had a game to be happy about.

And it was one play, from an unlikely source, that set the tone.

Midway through the second quarter, the game was tied when Spencer Lanning punted to Mississippi return man Marshay Green, who found a seam.

"(In the coaches box) they said, 'OK he's gone,'" Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said.

He wasn't, as it turned out. Lanning made the tackle at the USC 31, a play that may have ended up making the difference.

Instead of a touchdown, Mississippi ended up turning the ball over on a failed fake field goal in USC's 16-10 victory.

"The biggest play of the game was the punter making the tackle," said Ellis Johnson, USC's assistant head coach for defense. "We're going to bring him over this week and let him show some tackling drills to our perimeter people. He wrapped up."

Lanning did more than that. He averaged 42.9 yards per punt and made all three field goal attempts. He has made nine in a row.

"Spencer Lanning had a sensational game," said Spurrier, who gave Lanning a game ball.

It was a sweet game for the special teams, which struggled two weeks ago at Georgia.

Eric Norwood, the star on defense, also contributed on special teams with a tipped punt. Afterwards he and Beamer exchanged a leaping body bump.

"Coach Beamer, he drew it up. We were trying to hit it all game," Norwood said. "We finally got it."

Even the kickoffs improved for USC. Adam Yates, who struggled in last week against Florida Atlantic, averaged 61 yards an attempt, an improvement of almost a 20 yards per attempt.

"Our special teams play was very solid," Spurrier said. "We got some nice gratuitous bounces on punts there at the end, so that was very helpful for field position at the end."

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