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Saturday, October 15, 2011
Gamecocks top Bulldogs but lose Lattimore

By Edward Aschoff



There had to be a bittersweet feeling in South Carolina's locker room after today's 14-12 win over Mississippi State.

The Gamecocks improved to 6-1 on the year and 4-1 in conference play, but lost stud running back Marcus Lattimore to a knee injury in the fourth quarter.

Lattimore took a shot to the knee and had to be helped over to the sideline. He was tended to by the training staff and then his mother came down from the stands to be with him. Lattimore had his left knee wrapped in a brace and used crutches to get to the locker room.

After Alshon Jeffery's game-clinching touchdown, teammates huddled around Lattimore on the training table.

There was no word about the extent of Lattimore's injury during the game, but it definitely didn't look good. A serious injury to Lattimore would be a major blow to a South Carolina team that goes as its workhorse goes. The offense has basically revolved around him this season and he has been the Gamecocks' best offensive weapon.

Lattimore entered the game as the SEC's top rusher with 779 yards and had nine touchdowns on 146 carries, which was 22 more than Auburn's Michael Dyer, who entered the day second in the league in carries. Lattimore was stuffed for most of the day, as Mississippi State's defense held him to just 39 yards on 17 carries, though he did manage a 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

With Lattimore not as effective in the run game, South Carolina's offense struggled for most of the afternoon. Quarterback Connor Shaw, who made his third start of the season, passed for just 155 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Once again, the offense couldn't consistently move the ball, but Mississippi State's defense didn't make anything easy as it loaded the box to stop Lattimore and those talented corners made Shaw's day rough throwing the ball.

The Gamecocks mustered just 289 total yards.

As bad as South Carolina's offense was at times, Mississippi State's wasn't much better with its 296 yards. Quarterback Tyler Russell started in place of Chris Relf, but managed just 165 yards -- though 128 of those yards came in the second half. Running back Vick Ballard carried the ball 20 times, but got just 67 yards (his longest rush was a mere 9 yards) and was held out of the end zone for the third straight game.

Mississippi State had chances to score, but drives stalled and the Bulldogs had to settle for field-goal attempts. Derek DePasquale connected on a 22-yarder, but missed from 40 and 53 yards out.

This offense is still struggling with execution and sustaining any sort of momentum it gets. At this point, it might not matter which is in for the Bulldogs, who are now 0-4 in conference play this season.