Defense holds on, but Lattimore injured in win over Tennessee - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Defense holds on, but Lattimore injured in win over Tennessee

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

South Carolina's defense came up with some big plays late in the fourth quarter to help the Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2 SEC) hold on to a victory against the Tennessee Volunteers (3-5, 0-5 SEC) Saturday, but the win is not the topic of discussion.

Instead, the eyes and hearts of Gamecock fans are focused on junior running back Marcus Lattimore, who injured his right knee during the second quarter. 

In the wake of the win, players talked about a moment that happened the night before where Lattimore gave a speech to his teammates on giving your all because your next play might be your last. 

It's a speech that players and coaches now look at with a more curious eye. 

Defensive players Jadeveon Clowney and Victor Hampton alluded to the speech in remarks during the post-game news conference. 

"He just talked about it last night. When we were talking after the movies he was like 'act like every play is your last play here,'" said Clowney. "It's just crazy how he went out like that. I couldn't believe it."

The fans couldn't believe it either. Lattimore, who is coming off a knee injury that ended his season last year, may have a season-ending injury to his right knee this year.

As Lattimore went down and it became apparent that he was seriously injured, a hush filled the stadium as fans watched him writhe in pain.

The silence quickly ended as fans in the stands began to cheer, "Let's go, Marcus" in an effort to let the injured star know he had all the support in the world in the stands.

In those moments, the South Carolina and Tennessee sidelines cleared to huddle around the injured Lattimore. The game was still going, but it was a moment of shared sportsmanship between the two teams.

"I'm not sure I've quite seen one quite like that. Obviously, everybody in the SEC and around the country has the utmost respect for Marcus Lattimore and mainly as a person. We all know he's a great back, but as a person, there's none better than him that I've ever met," said coach Steve Spurrier.

The cheers of the fans continued as Lattimore was helped up onto a cart and whisked away from the field. As he waved to his teammates and fans, the running back's face was covered by a towel as he wept. 

In his Sunday conference call to the media, Coach Steve Spurrier could not provide details on the depth of Lattimore's injury, other than saying team doctor Jeffrey Guy told him the knee was dislocated and he had put it into place.

With emotions running high from both sides, the game had to continue. And it wasn't even the end of the first half yet.

South Carolina and Tennessee would air it out for the rest of the game, both sides accumulating over 300 yards of passing.

Tennessee would make it really interesting with 8 minutes left in the game, bringing the score to 38-35 thanks to some heroics from quarterback Tyler Bray. 

Nursing that tenuous lead with the fans already emotional from watching Lattimore's injury, the Gamecocks had to make a play.

Enter Clowney.

Clowney had been contained by the Volunteers' offensive line for most of the game. With 1:09 left in the 4th quarter and Tennessee driving to the South Carolina 19 yard line, Clowney finally burst through the offensive line to strip the ball from Bray and sack him for a loss.

Shaq Wilson quickly recovered the ball, and the air that left the stadium following Lattimore's injury suddenly swept through like the winds of Hurricane Sandy.

That play gave the Gamecocks the ball back with less than a minute left to play, but the game was still not over. With a three and out and the Volunteers getting the ball back in their own territory, South Carolina would need another big play.

Enter Hampton.

Bray dropped back and shot off a pass deep into South Carolina territory, but Hampton was right there where he needed to be and intercepted the pass.

With victory finally sealed, fans in the stands exploded in joy.

But the cost of Saturday's victory may have been high with the injury to Lattimore. No one knows the severity of the injury, but the university expects the running back to be out "indefinitely". 

The Gamecocks head into a much-needed bye week this weekend. It's a bye week that players and coaches really appreciate.

"We needed a bye week really bad," said Hampton.

"Long stretch, man. Long stretch," said Clowney of the slate of SEC games in the past few weeks.

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