Ground game pivotal in Bulldogs, Gamecocks matchup
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier knows firsthand that freshmen running backs can make a huge impact.
He saw it two years ago with Gamecocks star Marcus Lattimore and hopes things don't repeat themselves Saturday with Georgia freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
"As we all know, freshmen running backs can certainly play and can play well, just like Marcus came in here two years ago," Spurrier said. "That's a position you don't have to have been there for two years and learn the offense and all that kind of stuff."
All you have to do is run. Expect to see plenty of handoffs and pitches to the tailback when the fifth-ranked Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) take on the sixth-ranked Gamecocks (5-0, 3-0) at Williams-Brice Stadium.
South Carolina's Lattimore and Georgia's freshmen of Gurley and Marshall — who some fans have dubbed "Gurshall" — are all coming off big performances heading into the SEC Eastern Division showdown.
Lattimore ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns as South Carolina rallied past Kentucky, 38-17.
Gurley and Marshall combined for 294 yards and five TDs rushing in Georgia's 51-44 shootout against Tennessee. Gurley, the SEC's leading rusher, gained 130 yards against the Vols, his fourth 100-yard rushing game this season. Marshall rushed for 164 yards on 10 carries, including touchdown runs of 75 and 72 yards.
"It's very fun, especially when the offense is rolling like it has been rolling," Marshall said. "Everyone's been making plays and it's very exciting."
Gurley and Marshall have shown the explosiveness of famed Georgia star and 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker. Lattimore's powerhouse play is similar to that of South Carolina's own Heisman Trophy winner, George Rogers, in 1980.
Spurrier, who's coached standouts like Fred Taylor and Errict Rhett at Florida, couldn't believe what he saw from Lattimore against Georgia two years ago.
In his first SEC game, Lattimore shredded Georgia's highly regarded defense for 182 yards and two touchdowns in a dominating 17-6 victory, a game that jumpstarted South Carolina's run to the SEC East crown.
Spurrier said Lattimore broke about 40 tackles in the game, a powerful showing that even surprised the Gamecocks staff. "It was one of the most amazing days I've ever seen a running back have," Spurrier said.
Lattimore stung the Bulldogs again last year at Athens with 176 yards and a touchdown in a 45-42 South Carolina victory. He missed the final six games after tearing a knee ligament and has played strongly in his return.