No one understands what it means to beat Georgia more than Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecock great who led South Carolina to three straight victories over the Bulldogs from 2010-2012.
Lattimore, now South Carolina’s Director of Player Development, was on the field at Sanford Stadium Saturday when the Gamecocks upset No. 3 Georgia. Amid all the jubilation and the celebration by Gamecock Nation, no one was happier than the former Gamecocks star.
“Man, I was so happy for them. I was so happy for them. I was happy myself,” said Lattimore, who was inducted into the University of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame Thursday night.
“Selfishly, I was overjoyed because you just see how hard they work. Did the season go as planned? No, but nothing ever does in life. Nothing ever goes the way we want it to go, and to see them humble themselves and come together after all the turmoil that they have faced this season, from outside the locker room, it was a beautiful sight and they deserved that win.”
South Carolina, which started the season 2-3 in Will Muschamp’s fourth season, upset Georgia to improve to 3-3. It was Muschamp’s biggest win and South Carolina’s first win over a top-10 team since 2014 and over a top-five team since 2013.
Many believe the win was the biggest in school history, comparing it to the upset over No. 1 Alabama in 2010. Lattimore concurs with that.
“Both of those are pretty big, but this year, with where we have been and the expectations of us going out there and, quite frankly, not winning, it’s hard to top last week, it really is,” he said.
Led by quarterback Stephen Garcia and a dominating defense, South Carolina upset No. 1 Alabama, 35-21, in 2010 en route to winning the SEC East for the only time. As a freshman, Lattimore rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns in that game. Later in the season, he had the best game of his career, rushing 40 times for 212 yards and three touchdowns as the Gamecocks beat Florida, 36-14, to win the SEC East title.
Lattimore says the Georgia win in Athens last week felt a lot like 2010.
“It had that same type of feel to it, that Alabama win,” he said. “Even the Florida win in 2010. But they are all unique and different in their own way. That game was an SEC game. It was defense, it was running the ball, it was stopping the run. It was what you want to see when you turn on an SEC game, and I was so happy to be in that venue during that time. It’s a memory I will never forget.”
Lattimore, who rushed for 2,677 yards in his three-year career and holds the school record for rushing touchdowns (36) and total touchdowns (41), had some of his biggest games against rival Georgia. In just the second game of his career, Lattimore rushed 37 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns in a 17-6 win over the Bulldogs. He had 176 yards and a touchdown in a 45-42 win in Athens in 2011 and 109 yards in a 35-7 win again in 2012.
Lattimore says the performance against Georgia as a freshmen set the tone for his career.
“I knew I could fit in after that Georgia game my freshman year, the second game of the year. It gave me that confidence,” he said. “I will never forget before the game even started, Spencer Lanning, who was one of our team captains, looked me dead in my eye and said ‘control what you can control.’ That gave me a calming presence and it gave me the confidence to go out there and be myself.”
Lattimore isn’t the only former Gamecock great thrilled with the win over Georgia. Former defensive back Rashad Faison, who was also inducted into the hall of fame Thursday night, had a feeling South Carolina would beat Georgia. He was at his home in Atlanta when he told a friend before the game “something is going to be special.”
“I don’t what came over me, but I just felt like something was going to be different because every so often, we run up on Georgia and we give them that [loss],” he said. “I was so happy last Saturday, just pacing back and forth in the apartment in Atlanta. I was like, ‘we are going to pull it off. I don’t know how we are going to do it, but we are going to pull it off.’
“I am just excited for everybody, all the fans and especially all the players and coaches.”