South Carolina survived, again, but the Gamecocks are limping into this bye week holding their breath.
The No. 15 Gamecocks staged a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback to beat Mississippi State 14-12 on Saturday but any joy was tempered by a season-ending knee injury to All-SEC tailback Marcus Lattimore.
Lattimore will miss the remainder of the season due to ligament damage in his left knee, Steve Spurrier said Sunday.
Lattimore left the team’s locker room Saturday on crutches with a large brace on his left leg. His mother Yolanda Smith, who had made her way onto the sidelines only moments after Lattimore was helped off the field, cried and hugged her son as he made his way to the team bus.
The Gamecocks now have a week off before playing at Tennessee on Oct. 29.
“That’s what we harped on, come on the road, get a win, go into the bye week feeling good about it,” said quarterback Connor Shaw, who completed 20-of-28 passes for 155 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown. “It never feels good when you go into a bye with a loss.”
The Bulldogs (3-4, 0-4 SEC) outgained South Carolina (6-1, 4-1) 296 to 289.
Twenty-seven percent of the Gamecocks’ offense came on the game-winning drive, which started at South Carolina’s 21-yard line with 9:44 left in the game and the Gamecocks trailing 10-7. Shaw capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery with 3:50 left in the game.
The 6-foot-4 Jeffery leaped over the 5-foot-10 Corey Broomfield to make the catch and lost his helmet as he fell to the turf. Six-foot-two Bulldogs cornerback Johnthan Banks, who had an interception and tipped a pass that led to another interception, had been on Jeffery most of the day but was lined up on the other side of the field on the decisive play.
“I saw single coverage out there and you just try to get the ball to Alshon whenever you can, especially with the game on the line like that,” Shaw said.
Jeffery finished with five catches for 24 yards.
“If I had to grade myself I had a terrible game so I had to make a play,” he said. “Big-time players make big plays.”
Shaw’s final drive salvaged a shaky performance for the sophomore who was making his first start in a road game. He looked little like the quarterback who threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns against Kentucky last week.
“I didn’t handle the pressure as well as I should have,” he said. “That’ll come. I felt like in the second half, I played a little better, but it all comes down to the last drive and I thought we played pretty good.”
The Gamecocks’ first touchdown came on a 4-yard run by Lattimore in the second quarter, but Lattimore finished with only 39 yards on 17 carries. Sophomore wide receiver Bruce Ellington was South Carolina’s offensive star of the day totaling 32 yards on four catches, 25 yards on four carries, and 24 yards on 2-of-3 passing out of the wildcat formation.
After Jeffery’s go-ahead touchdown, Mississippi State moved the ball quickly to South Carolina’s 32-yard line but a diving interception by D.J. Swearinger ended that drive and preserved the win. Swearinger led the Gamecocks with 12 tackles.
Shaw ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety to run the clock out on the win, which was the Gamecocks third victory decided by three or fewer points.
“That’s not bad when you’ve won three games by 3, 3 and 2,” Spurrier said. “That’s not bad at all. We are not a dominant team by any means and we have a lot of work to do if we’re going to try to make a stretch run.”
|SCORE BY QUARTERS||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||FINAL|
MSU: C. Smith 19 pass from Russell (DePasquale kick), 1:09.
USC: Lattimore 4 run (Wooten kick), 6:21.
MSU: FG DePasquale 22, 9:50.
USC: A. Jeffery 4 pass from C.Shaw (Wooten kick), 3:50.
MSU: Safety, :00.
|Time of Possession||32:34||27:26|
RUSHING: South Carolina, Lattimore 17-39, C.Shaw 16-28, Ellington 4-25, Byrd 1-10, Wilds 5-8. Mississippi St., Ballard 20-67, Perkins 9-46, Russell 8-18.
PASSING: South Carolina, C.Shaw 20-28-2-155, Ellington 2-3-0-24, Team 0-1-0-0. Mississippi St., Russell 11-29-2-165, Favre 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: South Carolina, A.Jeffery 5-24, Jones 4-45, Ellington 4-32, Lattimore 3-29, A.Sanders 2-25, D.L. Moore 2-14, Cunningham 2-10. Mississippi St., Clark 4-54, C. Smith 3-34, M. Johnson 2-51, Bumphis 2-26.