Marcus Lattimore, the South Carolina Gamecocks' star tailback, will be out for the season with a knee injury, which is bad news for a team trying to win the SEC East this year. The 14th ranked Gamecocks are looking to keep pace with the Georgia Bulldogs for a spot in the SEC Championship game against potential national champions #2 Alabama or #1 LSU.
Coach Steve Spurrier told reporters he knew that when Lattimore went down in Saturday's game against Mississippi State, which the Gamecocks won 14-12, the Heisman candidate could be out for a while.
Once Sunday rolled around, and Spurrier finally received definite word of Lattimore's status, he announced that the team's worst fears were realized.
Spurrier said that Lattimore had ligament and cartilage damage in his knee, which the tailback sustained when he was blocking against Mississippi State in the fourth quarter. A Mississippi State defender was trying to tackle ball-carrier Bruce Ellington when he rolled into Lattimore's knee.
Lattimore had carried the ball during that game 17 times for a season-low 39 yards and had a touchdown. He left for the locker room before the game ended with his left knee wrapped in a brace and on crutches.
Spurrier said doctors want the knee to stabilize for a few weeks before operating on Lattimore.
Lattimore had been the SEC's top rusher most of the season (163 attempts, 818 yards) until he was overtaken by Alabama's Trent Richardson. However, despite the knee injury, he will have to recuperate from the beating he has taken being the Gamecocks' best offensive weapon. All his rushing touches plus his 19 receptions and 182 receiving yards have surely taken a toll on the rest of his body in only the first seven games of the season.
The good news is that South Carolina's bye week is coming up, so Lattimore will be getting some much needed rest to recover. The bad news is that without the guy who's carried the offense on his back, the team's offense goes from above average to average, making South Carolina beatable.
However, that doesn't mean South Carolina still can't win the SEC East. Georgia just barely survived at Vanderbilt in a 33-28 win on Saturday Sept. 24 despite a slew of foul penalties, not being able to finish drives on offense and a total meltdown on special teams. And, South Carolina still has some offensive firepower. Recently-dismissed Stephen Garcia's backup, Connor Shaw, has filled in nicely, showing his prowess in a 54-3 win over Kentucky earlier this month.
South Carolina's defense is also playing its best football, giving up only 19 points a game, which is 19th best in the country. That will help the offense to maximize its possessions.
Lattimore will most likely be replaced by freshman runningback Brandon Wilds, who has 13 attempts for 75 yards this season.
The Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1 SEC) will not play again until Oct. 29 at Tennessee.