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.
Stephen Garcia threw three touchdown passes, two to Alshon Jeffrey, and Marcus Lattimore scored three times as 19th-ranked South Carolina stunned No. 1 Alabama 35-21 on Saturday.
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 lets give it a chance. Lets give fate a chance to happen,’” Spurrier said.
Opponents have had little chance against Alabama the past few seasons.
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.
No. 12 LSU beats No. 14 Florida 33-29: GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Every move Les Miles made down the stretch worked and No. 12 LSU escaped with another wild victory.
Jarrett Lee tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Toliver with 6 seconds left after LSU kept its final drive alive with a successful fake field goal, and the Tigers pulled out a 33-29 against No. 14 Florida on Saturday night.
Ripped for nearly blowing last week’s game against Tennessee because of clock management issues, Miles made all the right calls in this one.
With 35 seconds remaining, LSU (6-0, 4-0) lined up for a game-tying, 52-yard field goal, but holder Derek Helton threw a no-look pitch over his head to place-kicker Josh Jasper. The ball bounced, Jasper scooped it up on a hop and ran for the first down.
The play was reviewed to determine if it was a forward pass, which would have been incomplete and ended LSU’s hopes, but the ruling on the field stood.
Lee hit Toliver for a 28-yard gain on the next play to get down to the 3 and on the second fade to the corner, Toliver grabbed the game-winner.
The TD reception also was reviewed to see if Toliver had a foot down in bounds with control of the ball. It was upheld and the Tigers handed the Gators (4-2, 2-2) a second straight loss.
“They didn’t like us too much when we were 5-0,” Miles said. “Hopefully, they’ll like us a little better at 6-0.”
The Tigers remained one of two unbeaten teams in the Southeastern Conference, snapped Florida’s 12-game winning streak at home and diminished the Gators’ chances of winning the Eastern Division.
Newton helps No. 8 Auburn escape Kentucky 37-34: LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Cam Newton was dazzling as No. 8 Auburn spurted to a 17-point lead against Kentucky.
After the Wildcats rallied, the quarterback’s grit kept the Tigers undefeated.
Newton accounted for 74 yards on Auburn’s clock-chewing final drive, setting up Wes Byrum’s 24-yard field goal as time expired and Auburn escaped with a 37-34 victory Saturday night.
“We were relentless,” Newton said. “In my shoes, I feel comfortable going to battle.”
It certainly looked that way.
The junior ran for a career-high 198 yards and four touchdowns and passed for another 210 more, but it was his steady play with the game on the line that kept the Tigers (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) perfect.
Not that Auburn looked like it during a lethargic second half that allowed Kentucky (3-3, 0-3) to tie the game twice, the second time on a 35-yard field goal by Craig McIntosh with 7:31 to go.
Mallett’s 3 first-half TDs enough for No. 11 Hogs: ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Ryan Mallett got off to a great start, looking right at home in an NFL stadium.
He could’ve gone home awfully disappointed, though, if not for Tramain Thomas’ interception in the end zone on the game’s final play.
Mallett threw three touchdown passes in the first half, but failed to build on it and No. 11 Arkansas ended up holding on for a 24-17 victory over Texas A&M at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday.
The Razorbacks (4-1) let the game get so close by failing to take advantage of three fumble recovering inside the Aggies’ 40-yard line. They got just one field goal out of it, their only points in the second half.
Mallett threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Joe Adams on his first series and hit Cobi Hamilton on a pinpoint 71-yard touchdown pass for another score later in the first quarter. When he stretched the lead to 21-7 with 53 seconds left, the Razorbacks (4-1) looked poised for a huge bounce back from their narrow loss to No. 1 Alabama in their previous game.
But Jarrod Johnson led A&M (3-2) for a quick touchdown before the half, then a field goal in the third quarter to get within 21-17. Meanwhile, the Aggies’ defense took away the deep routes and pretty much everything else for Mallett.
Georgia hands Vince Dooley’s son and Tennessee a big loss 41-14: ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia took out four weeks worth of frustration on Vince Dooley’s boy and bumbling Tennessee.
Aaron Murray ran for two touchdowns and threw for two scores, including another to A.J. Green, as the Bulldogs snapped their longest losing streak in two decades with a 41-14 rout of the Volunteers on Saturday.
Georgia (2-4, 1-3 SEC) had been looking for this sort of performance ever since a season-opening win over Louisiana-Lafayette. The Bulldogs thoroughly dominated against a team that helped out by committing three turnovers, allowing four sacks and rushing for just 9 yards.
“I’m very proud of our team. We played beautifully,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who’s been under fire for the poor start. “We played extremely hard from the opening kickoff to the very end. I can’t ask much more than what they gave.”
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, the son of former Georgia coach and athletic director Vince Dooley, returned to the city where he grew up and graduated from law school. His father did not attend the game, electing to watch from home because he didn’t want to root for a visiting team between the hedges.
He shouldn’t have worried. Derek’s team didn’t give dad much to cheer about.
“We ran into a motivated team today,” said Derek Dooley, whose squad trailed 17-0 at the end of the first quarter and never made a game of it. “We are just not stopping anybody right now. I’m not sure if that’s just growing pains. I just think we are not very good right now.”
Smith sparks Vanderbilt over Eastern Michigan 52-6: NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Larry Smith could have wilted after missing two open receivers in the end zone Saturday night.
But the Vanderbilt quarterback didn’t. He completed his last eight passes of the first half and finished with two passing touchdowns and a rushing score as the Commodores rolled to a 52-6 victory against Eastern Michigan.
“Larry just keeps playing. He doesn’t say a word,” Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell said. “People try to be critical. But, as you can see, Larry is the man.”
Smith completed 16 of 27 passes for 253 yards — 227 coming before halftime — and 11 different receivers had a reception.
Vanderbilt (2-3) led 14-3 with 10:13 remaining in the second quarter after a 19-yard touchdown run by Warren Norman. On the next offensive play for Eastern Michigan (0-6), Vanderbilt defensive end Tim Fugger forced a fumble — his fourth of the season, which is tops in the Southeastern Conference.
The Associated Press