As the start of the 2012 season nears, GamecockCentral.com's David Cloninger takes a look back at the top plays of 2011, South Carolina's finest year. The No. 1 play from last year will be revealed on Aug. 30, USC's season-opener.
NO. 20: Big Shoulders, Big Shoes
The game: No. 14 South Carolina at Tennessee, Oct. 29
The scene: Tennessee 3, South Carolina 0, 10:57, first quarter
The setup: Two weeks previous, Spurrier looked as old as he ever had.
Even after a win at Mississippi State, USC's coach stared out at the turf after the game, shaking his head and saying, "I don't know what we're going to do now." There hadn't been many times the Head Ball Coach, a champion of swagger, had looked defeated, but this was one of them.
Yes, the Gamecocks had won the game, but had lost their prize stallion. Tailback Marcus Lattimore had gone down with a knee injury, and while the prognosis wasn't yet known, the fears that Spurrier and Lattimore's family had were dead on. Less than 24 hours later, the "news we feared" was announced - Lattimore was out for the rest of the year with torn ligaments in his knee.
USC was 6-1 and on its bye week, but Spurrier couldn't feel good. Not only was Lattimore out, but freshman tailback Shon Carson had also blown a knee out at Georgia. Kenny Miles had been battling a torn tendon in his wrist all year, and Eric Baker had a sprained ankle. That left walk-ons Joshua Blue and Josh Hinch, and one other healthy scholarship running back - Wilds.
Wilds had had 13 carries for 75 yards in his seven previous games, including a measly five carries for 8 yards against MSU. At 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds, many were pegging him as a fullback in college, although if asked, Wilds would reply, eyes flashing, with, "I'm not a fullback. I'm a tailback."
The Gamecocks needed a tailback. Wilds was the best option. So after the Volunteers recovered an Ace Sanders fumble to give themselves another possession after punting away their first and took a 3-0 lead, Spurrier swallowed hard and sent Wilds into the huddle, with the call to let the freshman show what he had right away.
The play(s): Shaw dropped back, saw Wilds open and fired. The rookie caught it for a 9-yard gain. Figuring he might as well keep testing him, Spurrier signaled for a run, Shaw handed off, and Wilds plunged for 4 yards and a first down.
The aftermath: The strong beginning resulted in a beautiful night for Wilds, who rushed 28 times for 137 yards and caught three passes for 31 yards. The Gamecocks squeaked past Tennessee 14-3 and showed that they could win without Lattimore - Wilds collected two more 100-yard games among his next three and USC only lost once more for the rest of the year.
No one could ever be Lattimore - but with Wilds the only option, he proved that he was indeed a tailback.