COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier knows the best part of his 13th-ranked Gamecocks beating lower-division Furman.
"Glad the game's over," he said, "and we don't have to play them again for another 25 years."
Stephen Garcia threw for two touchdowns, freshman Marcus Lattimore rushed for one and South Carolina won 38-19 on Saturday, improving to 3-0 for the first time in three years. Not that it came easily against the Paladins — something that's happened before with FCS teams in Spurrier's six seasons.
The Gamecocks needed a fourth-quarter interception to hold on against Wofford 27-20 in 2006, then managed only a pair of touchdowns against those same Terriers in a 23-13 win.
The last time they played Furman was even worse for the Gamecocks, a stunning 28-23 win for Paladins at Williams-Brice Stadium in 1982.
And Furman (1-1) of the FCS Southern Conference seemed poised to make this one tight, cutting a 28-6 lead to 31-19 in the final period and driving for more before Stephon Gilmore's interception and 80-yard TD return finally settled things.
Furman's Adam Mims finished with 10 catches for 202 yards.
It was a drastic turn from a week ago, when the Gamecocks' stamped themselves contenders in the Southeastern Conference with a 17-6 win over Georgia.
"We played to their level," South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery said of Furman. "We have to play to our level."
It looked like they had early on.
Garcia's 15-yard scoring throw to Tori Gurley and Lattimore's 4-yard touchdown run put the Gamecocks up 14-0.
When Garcia completed a nifty 6-yard throw to D.L. Moore in the back of the end zone early in the third quarter, South Carolina led 28-6 and looked ready to rout Furman.
But the Gamecocks had trouble putting this one away.
Shawn Boone began Furman's comeback, tipping and catching Garcia's screen pass attempt near the goal line for a 3-yard touchdown return.
After Spencer Lanning's career best 51-yard field goal, the Paladins struck again with Tersoo Uhaa's halfback pass to Mims for a 72-yard touchdown.
Furman drove 53 yards to South Carolina's 30 the next time it had the ball before Cody Worley's overthrown pass settled in Gilmore's hands with a clear path to the end zone.
"We could have folded at 14-9, and they could have run out of the stadium," said Furman coach Bobby Lamb, a freshman quarterback on the Paladins' 1982 giant killers. "But we made some things happen."
Still, Spurrier improved to 40-0 all time against programs from outside the BCS automatic qualifier conferences.
Things get decidedly tougher from here. The Gamecocks go to Auburn next Saturday and, after a week off, face top-ranked Alabama at home.
"We were a little careless at times," Spurrier said. "But maybe it was just one game. Maybe we can get in a game with Auburn and play as smart as we can."
Garcia finished 13 of 20 for 150 yards with his first two interceptions of the year. Lattimore added 97 yards rushing and his fifth TD on the ground this year. Jeffery had five catches for 97 yards, coming up short of his third straight game with at least 100 receiving yards.
South Carolina's defense registered seven sacks and held Furman to 51 yards on the ground.
Spurrier was disappointed in some of his team's breakdowns, but hoped it would wake the players up to what might happen with a lack of focus. "Pretty sad some of the things that happened, but hopefully it happened in a game where we had a decent lead," he said. "We can try and prevent those things in the future."