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August 27, 2013
To celebrate GamecockCentral.com's 15th Anniversary, we're putting together some fun lists of "Top 15" things -- players, coaches, events, etc -- that Gamecock Central was there to either help cover, celebrate or just plain commiserate.
Today's installment is the Top 15 Gamecock football individual performances since 1998:
1. Marcus Lattimore at Florida, Nov. 13, 2010: Lattimore's freshman season - and perhaps his career at USC - peaked in Gainesville when he rushed 40 times for a career-high 212 yards and three touchdowns, sparking the Gamecocks to the SEC East-clinching victory. Lattimore's final two seasons were marred by injury, but his performance on this night was unforgettable.
2. Stephen Garcia and Alshon Jeffery v. Alabama, Oct. 9, 2010 Garcia was wildly inconsistent and his shenanigans off the field are well documented, but when he was on, it was magic. He played the game of his life, completing 17-of-20 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Jeffery's reputation grew with seven receptions for 127 yards, including a spectacular grab along the sidelines directly in front of Tide coach Nick Saban. USC had to play flawless football to beat the top-ranked Tide and, thanks to Garcia and Jeffery, they did in the 35-21 win.
3. Jadeveon Clowney at Clemson, Nov. 24, 2012: The Legend of Jadeveon Clowney didn't begin with "The Hit" in the Outback Bowl. Remember, Clowney won the Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Certainly, his performance last November in the Upstate didn't hurt. Clowney collected a Memorial Stadium record 4.5 sacks in the win and led a defensive effort that dominated the Tigers from start to finish, limiting them to 59 plays.
4. Marcus Lattimore v. Georgia, Sept. 11, 2010: Clowney has his legend, and so does Lattimore. It all began on a warm Saturday afternoon against the rival Bulldogs in his second appearance in a Gamecock uniform. His performance is fondly remembered as Lattimore's coming out party as he propelled himself onto the national stage for the first time by rushing 37 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns. USC physically dominated the Bulldogs, jumpstarting its current three-game winning streak in the series.
5. Ace Sanders v. Michigan, Jan. 1, 2013: Sanders' final game in a Gamecock uniform marked one of the best bowl performances in history by a USC player. Sanders caught nine passes, two for touchdowns, including one moments after "The Hit" by Clowney, and returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown. Feeling he couldn't surpass that performance, Sanders declared for the NFL Draft two weeks later.
6. Melvin Ingram at Georgia, Sept. 10, 2011: Ingram became an Internet sensation with a performance for the ages in USC's exciting 45-42 victory at Sanford Stadium. One play in particular summed up the night for the Gamecocks: On fourth down from their 29 late in the second quarter, Ingram took a direct snap, powered through the left side and rumbled 68 yards on a fake punt for a touchdown, stunning the pro-Georgia crowd and a national TV audience. Later, Ingram scooped up a fumble caused by Clowney and scored his second TD of the night, becoming just the third player since 2006 to score a touchdown on offense (the fake punt was considered a fourth-down rushing attempt) and defense in the same game.
7. Sidney Rice v. Florida Atlantic, Sept. 23, 2006: When you compare the numbers, Rice might be the best receiver in USC history. Had he remained at USC for a third year in 2007, he would likely own all the major receiving marks. Florida Atlantic had no answer for Rice on this night as he caught five touchdown passes to lead USC to a 45-6 victory. Consider this: Rice broke the school record for most touchdown receptions by two. In other words, nobody has four TD catches in a game. Only Rice has five. It's a record that could stand for a long time.
8. Connor Shaw v. Missouri, Sept. 22, 2012: Shaw showed the Missouri defense what the SEC was all about by completing 20-of-21 passes for 249 yards and two touchdown passes. Shaw completed a school-record 20 consecutive passes to finish the game, taking advantage of Missouri's soft zone. Lattimore and Justice Cunningham combined for 11 receptions, so Shaw simply took what the Missouri defense gave him.
9. Phil Petty v. Alabama, Sept. 29, 2001: When did USC finally beat Alabama for the first time in school history? The landmark win occurred during Holtz's third season as USC coach as Petty engineered a pair of late touchdown drives for a wild 37-36 win. Petty completed 19-of-33 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns. Petty capped the comeback with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Rod Trafford with 2:18 remaining. Williams-Brice Stadium rocked.
10. Ryan Brewer v. Ohio State, Jan. 1, 2001: Brewer, a Troy, Ohio, native, haunted his home state university (he was barely recruited by Ohio State despite winning "Mr. Football" honors), and accelerated the demise of John Cooper as Buckeyes head coach by rushing for 109 yards, catching three passes, scoring three touchdowns, earning MVP honors. The win capped off an amazing turnaround season for the Gamecocks.
11. Marcus Lattimore, Sept. 17, 2011 v. Navy: When did Lattimore set his career high for rushing yards in a single game? It came against the Midshipmen in a tougher-than-expected contest at Williams-Brice Stadium that USC was fortunate to win. The Gamecocks needed just about every one of Lattimore's 246 yards to hold off the Midshipmen, 24-21. He carried 37 times and averaged 6.6 yards a run. This sums up Lattimore's importance in this game: the Gamecocks ran 37 plays in the second half and Lattimore touched the ball on 26 of them.
12. Eric Norwood v. Kentucky, Oct. 4, 2007: Ranked in the Top 10, the Wildcats arrived in Columbia for a Thursday night tussle flying high under head coach Rich Brooks. Norwood, though, spearheaded a stellar performance by the USC defense as he tied an NCAA mark with two touchdowns on fumble returns. In the third quarter, Andre Woodson's lateral attempt to fullback John Conner was muffed, and Norwood grabbed the loose football and ran 53 yards for his second score and a 24-10 lead for USC. This game, along with his performance against Ole Miss in 2009, were the best of Norwood's career.
13. Dylan Thompson at Clemson, Nov. 24, 2012: Many Gamecock fans probably groaned when word circulated shortly before last November's Palmetto Bowl that Shaw wouldn't play due to a foot injury. However, Thompson came through in his second career start by connecting on 23-of-41 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns. But his biggest play came with his feet when he ran 20 yards on a third-and-19 situation to set up the game's final touchdown. Sometimes, the best performances are the ones that are the most unexpected, and Thompson's night against Clemson certainly qualifies.
14. Brandon Wilds at Tennessee, Oct. 29, 2011: When Marcus Lattimore went down for the season in a two-point win at Mississippi State two weeks earlier, many analysts wondered if the Gamecocks would be able to run the football for the rest of the season. Enter Wilds, who started the season fifth on the depth chart. Few Tennessee fans likely knew who Wilds was when the game started, but they were certainly muttering his name afterwards. Wilds rushed for 137 yards on 28 carries to help lift USC to a 14-3 win at Neyland Stadium, the Gamecocks' second win ever in Knoxville. He was also USC's leading receiver with three receptions for 31 yards. Wilds collected two more 100-yard rushing games before the season ended, but his performance at Tennessee was as unlikely as they come.
15. Stephen Garcia at Kentucky, Oct. 11, 2008: Garcia was only a redshirt freshman with zero career starts on his resume when USC and Kentucky kicked off on a sunny afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky. Chris Smelley was coming off a career performance at Ole Miss the week earlier that garnered him SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors. So, Garcia's prospects of playing - or even making an impact upon the game - were slim. But when Smelley struggled to ignite the offense, Garcia came off the bench midway through the third quarter to lead USC to a come-from-behind road victory. He completed 10-of-14 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown and led four consecutive drives into Wildcat territory, earning him SEC Freshman of the Week honors and his first career start against LSU a week later.
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