3:30 PM ET, October 9, 2010
Williams-Brice Stadium, COLUMBIA, SC
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- After delivering South Carolina's biggest win ever, all coach Steve Spurrier could do was smile.
"I think that this game was meant to be," he said.
The way the Gamecocks played, it sure seemed like it.
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After years of futility and cruel losses, fate finally shined on South Carolina in a win over top-ranked Alabama. Now, almost anything seems possible for the Gamecocks, writes ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach. Story
Much maligned and often questioned, Stephen Garcia delivered for South Carolina and head coach Steve Spurrier when it mattered most, writes ESPN.com's Chris Low. Blog
Never before had the Gamecocks beaten a team ranked No. 1 -- at least not in football. So Spurrier had plenty of reason to bask in one of the biggest victories of his illustrious career.
When Spurrier arrived at South Carolina (4-1, 2-1) from the Washington Redskins, expectations in Columbia soared. He had dominated the SEC and led Florida to a national championship in 1996 before trying out the NFL.
South Carolina has been solid under Spurrier, but still hasn't won the SEC East -- and never really has come close. This bunch of Gamecocks might be able to change that with a winning mix of dynamic skill players and dominating defenders that could keep them in the title chase all season.
"I said 'Fellas, if fate means for us to win this game Saturday then let's give it a chance. Let's give fate a chance to happen,' " Spurrier said.
Opponents have had little chance against Alabama the past few seasons.
Alabama Rushing Woes
Alabama's 38 yards rushing were the third-fewest in the Nick Saban era. They had 20 in a loss to LSU in 2007 and 31 in the 2009 Sugar Bowl loss to Utah.
Bama Under Nick Saban (since '07)
|2007 vs. LSU||20||Lost|
|2009 vs. Utah||31||Lost|
|2010 at South Carolina||36||Lost|
|-- ESPN Stats & Information|
The defending national champions had won 19 straight games -- including last week's 31-6 rout of Florida -- since losing the Sugar Bowl to Utah after the 2008 season.
But facing a third consecutive ranked SEC team caught up with Alabama as Garcia and the Gamecocks used the Crimson Tide's formula for success: Cashing in on chances close to the goal line and limiting the country's best tailback duo in Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson to 64 yards.
South Carolina shredded the country's top-rated scoring defense, putting up the most points on Alabama (5-1, 2-1) since a 41-34 loss to LSU in 2007. The Gamecocks scored four touchdowns when they got inside the 'Bama 20 -- double what the Crimson Tide had allowed coming in.
"It's not like we just lost. They beat us," said Alabama coach Nick Saban, now 1-3 against Spurrier. "They outexecuted us. They played better than we played. They played with more intensity. They played physical."
Saban wants the Tide to remember this should they run into the Gamecocks for the SEC championship game.
"I actually talked to [Greg] McElroy after the game and he said, 'We'll see you all again,' " said Garcia, who was pulled from South Carolina's last game, a 35-27 loss at Auburn, after fumbling twice.
Alabama tried to rally back as it had against Arkansas two games ago, this time cutting South Carolina's 21-3 lead to 28-21 with most of the fourth quarter left.
Just like they did in their January 26 win over No. 1 Kentucky in basketball, the Gamecocks snapped their opponents 19-game win streak in their win over No. 1 Alabama. Each win was also the school's first over No. 1.
|Opp win streak||19||19|
|1st win over No. 1?||Yes||Yes|
|-- Source: ESPN Stats and Information|
The Crimson Tide's charge came courtesy of an odd safety by Garcia -- Spurrier threw his notes about 5 yards onto the field when his quarterback grabbed a wayward shotgun snapped and flung it through his own end zone from about the 2-yard line -- a field goal and a 51-yard touchdown catch by Darius Hanks.
Alabama's last chance to tighten things came at the start of the fourth quarter when Jeffery, the SEC's leading receiver, bobbled a catch into the hands of Tide defensive back Will Lowery for an interception.
But McElroy was sacked for a 7-yard loss by Stephon Gilmore and Saban called a fake field goal that didn't come close to working as defensive lineman Ed Stinson dropped the throw from holder A.J. McCarron.
South Carolina answered with a 75-yard drive, capped by Lattimore's 2-yard score with 7:01 left that put the game away.
Alabama could not respond and South Carolina fans, as they had done after the basketball team beat Kentucky in January and the baseball team beat Arizona State at the College World Series in June, celebrated beating the country's No. 1 team.
"We haven't had this feeling in a long time and we don't want it again," Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower said.
Spurrier earned his 107th SEC victory, breaking a tie for second with Mississippi great Johnny Vaught. Alabama's Paul "Bear" Bryant is the all-time leader with 159 league wins.
"I gave myself a game ball for that one," Spurrier said.
Lattimore finished with 93 yards rushing. He also caught Garcia's first scoring pass, a 9-yard touchdown in the opening quarter.
Garcia was a tidy 17 of 20 for 201 yards and the one interception. He also picked up a critical fourth-and-1 on the Gamecocks final scoring drive. Jeffery had seven receptions for 127 yards, including TD catches of 26 and 15 yards.
McElroy threw for a career-high 315 yards, but was sacked seven times. He says Alabama will learn from the loss and bounce back.
"I promise will do everything in my power to get these guys ready to go and put this loss in the rear view mirror," McElroy said.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Alabama failed to convert a fake field goal attempt trailing 28-21 in the fourth quarter.
Gameball goes to... Stephen Garcia. The much-maligned QB was the steady hand and had three TDs.
Stat of the game... 64. South Carolina limited Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram to just 64 combined yards.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-13||6-11|
|4th Down Conversions||2-3||2-2|
|FG||10:32||Jeremy Shelley 32 Yd||3||0|
|TD||07:20||Marcus Lattimore 9 Yd Pass From Stephen Garcia (Spencer Lanning Kick)||3||7|
|TD||00:35||Alshon Jeffery 26 Yd Pass From Stephen Garcia (Spencer Lanning Kick)||3||14|
|TD||13:52||Alshon Jeffery 15 Yd Pass From Stephen Garcia (Spencer Lanning Kick)||3||21|
|TD||00:38||Julio Jones 8 Yd Pass From Greg McElroy (Pat Failed)||9||21|
|SF||14:49||Ball Through End Zone||11||21|
|FG||09:37||Jeremy Shelley 39 Yd||14||21|
|TD||01:42||Marcus Lattimore 1 Yd Run (Spencer Lanning Kick)||14||28|
|TD||14:51||Darius Hanks 51 Yd Pass From Greg McElroy (Jeremy Shelley Kick)||21||28|
|TD||07:01||Marcus Lattimore 2 Yd Run (Spencer Lanning Kick)||21||35|
Alabama's drop from the top spot in the AP Poll all the way to No. 8 is tied for the 2nd longest fall in the polls by a top-ranked team since 1991. USC dropped to 9th following its loss to Oregon State in 2008 while Nebraska dropped to 8th following a loss to Arizona State in 1996.[+]
Farthest Drops in AP Poll - Previous No. 1 Team, Since 1991
In a 2009 win over South Carolina, Mark Ingram had 246 yards as the Tide totaled 264 rushing yards on the Gamecocks defense. On Saturday, Ingram had 41 yards, while the Tide as a team had 36.[+]
Fewest Rush Yards - Alabama Under Nick Saban (since 2007)
Quick Notes on South Carolina's upset * First win over No. 1 team in school history * 35 points on Alabama is most since LSU scored 41 on them in 2007 * Ends Alabama's 19-game win streak and 18-game SEC win streak * Held Alabama to 36 yards rushing (3rd-fewest in Nick Saban era)
Marcus Lattimore has 2 Rush TD and a rec TD today vs Alabama. The last player to have 3 TD vs Alabama? Tennessee WR James Banks in the Vols' October 25, 2003 shootout with Alabama. Banks had 2 receiving TD and a Rush TD. Tennessee won 51-43.
ESPN Stats & Information