Gamecocks roll over Southern Miss 41-13 in season opener - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Gamecocks roll over Southern Miss 41-13 in season opener

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Quarterback Stephen Garcia and freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore each ran for two touchdowns and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier won his 18th straight college opener 41-13 over Southern Miss on Thursday night.

With 5:43 left in the first quarter, a long drive by the Gamecocks ended with a 22-yard rush for a touchdown by Stephen Garcia. Spencer Lanning made the extra point, putting the Gamecocks up 7-0. A few minutes later, Southern Miss managed to get close enough for Danny Hrapmann to make a 33-yard field goal, cutting USC's lead to 7-3.

In the second quarter, USC's 55-yard drive was enough for Spencer Lanning to kick a field goal of his own. Just two minutes later, freshman Marcus Lattimore showed off his skills with a three-yard touchdown rush. Combined with Lanning's extra point, the score was USC 17, Southern Miss 3.

With 7:03 left in the first half, Lattimore again ran in a 7-yard touchdown rush. Lanning made the extra point, making the score 24-3. Five minutes later, the Golden Eagles got close enough for Hrapmann to kick a 36-yard field goal to end out the half.

In the third quarter, Lanning kicked a 42-yard field goal with 9:35 left. Five minutes later, Garcia followed up with a 3-yard touchdown run. With Lanning's extra point, the Gamecocks were now up 34-6.

In the fourth quarter with 11:19 left, Connor Shaw completed an excellent 15-yard pass to D.L. Moore for a touchdown, putting the Gamecocks up 41-6. Then with 1:33 left in the game, Southern Miss finally scored their first touchdown with a 29-yard pass from Martevious Young to DeAndre Brown. That cut the Gamecocks' lead to 41-13.

Stephen Garcia completed 16 of 23 passes for 193 yards, and rushed for two touchdowns. Connor Shaw completed four of five passes for 32 yards and a touchdown, which is good news for the Gamecock offense this season.

The Gamecocks' young players also stood out. Two other USC touchdowns were scored by freshman Marcus Lattimore, who carried the ball 14 times for 54 yards. Alshon Jeffrey caught the ball seven times for 106 yards, with a 46-yard bomb as his longest catch.

Two major story lines have dominated the headlines around Columbia throughout the off-season: the battle for starting quarterback position and the still pending NCAA investigation against tight-end Weslye Saunders and other members of the team.

Head coach Steve Spurrier ended weeks of rumor and speculation and named junior Stephen Garcia the starting quarterback Wednesday. The head ball coach had been flirting with the idea of starting true freshman Connor Shaw instead of Garcia, a second year starter.

Shaw had impressed Spurrier during the off-season, often saying he knew the offense as well as Garcia in just eight months with the team.

In the end, experience won out as Garcia ranked only behind Ryan Mallett of the Arkansas Razorbacks in passing yards thrown by returning Southeastern Conference quarterbacks. Garcia threw for 2,862 yards and 17 touchdowns last fall.

Despite the vote of confidence in Garcia, Spurrier did not rule out playing both quarterbacks throughout the season. "Of the eight conference championships I've won, four of them we played two quarterbacks," said Spurrier. "I have found there's nothing wrong with using two quarterbacks if you win the game."

Meanwhile, the cloud of an NCAA investigation has hovered over the program since July when Saunders confirmed he had spoken with the association about his relationship with an agent and his friend, UNC defensive tackle Marvin Austin. Austin and Saunders were later indefinitely suspended by their respective teams for rules violations. Both teams have said the investigation had nothing to do with their suspensions.

Other players have also been included in the probe. A news report alleged several players received discounted rates at the Whitney Hotel in Columbia, which if true is a violation of NCAA rules. The NCAA has not released any information about potential punishment against players, but Spurrier expects any sort of punishment to be only a one- or two-game suspension.

Spurrier did his best during the off-season to downplay his team's chances against the Golden Eagles, who entered the match with an eight-loss streak against SEC teams.

Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora boldly claimed his team would beat the Gamecocks on national television, but backed off that statement and told reporters that was the attitude he was looking for from his team for each opponent.

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