COLUMBIA, S.C. – Quarterback Stephen Garcia and freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore each ran for two touchdowns and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier won his 18th straight college opener 41-13 over Southern Miss on Thursday night.
Garcia got things started with a 22-yard touchdown run and Lattimore followed with first-half scores of 3 and 7 yards to send the Gamecocks to a surprisingly easy win against the Golden Eagles.
And Lattimore wasn't the only young star to excel for Spurrier.
Sophomore Alshon Jeffery had 106 receiving yards and freshman Ace Sanders had a 53-yard rush — the Gamecocks' longest in four years — to set up Lattimore's first score.
Even freshman backup passer Connor Shaw came through, connecting with D.L. Moore for a 15-yard touchdown pass for South Carolina's final score.
South Carolina's rout was a welcome result after a restless summer. Spurrier and the Gamecocks have been dogged by the NCAA the past two months. Standout tight end Weslye Saunders, a central figure in the probe for possible contact with agents, did not play because of an unrelated team suspension.
Then South Carolina scratched two starters — left tackle Jarriel King and cornerback Chris Culliver — right before kickoff, although the athletic department would not say why.
Southern Miss kept the Gamecocks offstride early on, forcing a punt on South Carolina's opening series and quickly driving to the Gamecocks 22.
That's when momentum changed for good.
Akeem Auguste broke up a third-down pass that settled into the hands of safety DaVonte Holloman and South Carolina followed with a solid drive of its own led by Garcia.
The junior was 4-for-4 passing for 51 yards on the series and finished things with a gritty, 22-yard TD run.
Then South Carolina's youngest guns took control.
Speedy Sanders had his back-breaking end around to the Southern Miss 9. Two plays later, Lattimore bounced through for his first college score from 3 yards out.
Lattimore, considered the country's top tailback prospect last February, got the call a series later. This time, he picked his way through Southern Miss defenders for a 7-yard scoring run as South Carolina led 24-6 — its most points by halftime since the 2006 Liberty Bowl.
Garcia ended 16 of 23 for 193 yards.
Golden Eagles coach Larry Fedora followed Spurrier as Florida's playcaller in 2002 and tried to out-scheme him with a no-huddle, flood-the-field attack.
But Southern Miss twice bogged down in the red zone after the early pick, settling for two field goals.
Playmaking receiver DeAndre Brown was covered up most of the night by South Carolina's secondary. The junior, who caught 114 passes his first two seasons, didn't catch one against the Gamecocks until the final period when Southern Miss trailed 41-6.
Brown had the Golden Eagles' only touchdown, a 29-yard scoring catch with 1:33 left.