Steve Spurrier finally delivered South Carolina's biggest win ever.
Stephen Garcia threw three touchdown passes, two to Alshon Jeffrey, and Marcus Lattimore scored three times as the 19th-ranked Gamecocks stunned No. 1 Alabama 35-21 on Saturday.
The defending national champion Crimson Tide had won 19 straight games — including last week's 31-6 rout of Florida — since losing the Sugar Bowl after the 2008 season to Utah. The Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) had never beaten a No. 1 team in four previous tries.
“We played some ball today,” Spurrier said. “We played until the end, looked up and we'd beaten number one by a couple of touchdowns. Hopefully, it was something we can build on.”
The Head Ball Coach, in his sixth season at South Carolina, had the players to beat Alabama using the Tide's own formula.
Garcia and the Gamecocks cashed in on chances when they got close to the goal line and shut down the best tailback duo in the country, making themselves a factor in the SEC title chase. They could run into the Tide again at the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
“I actually talked to (Greg) McElroy after the game and he said, 'We'll see you all again,'” said Garcia, who was pulled from South Carolina's last game, a 35-27 loss at Auburn, after fumbling twice.
South Carolina shredded the country's top-rated scoring defense, putting up the most points on Alabama (5-1, 2-1) since a 41-34 loss to LSU in 2007. The Gamecocks scored four touchdowns when they got inside the 'Bama 20 — double what the Crimson Tide had allowed coming in.
Alabama's Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson were held to 64 yards on the ground as the Crimson Tide tried to rally back, just as it had in beating Arkansas 24-20 two games ago.
The Crimson Tide made a charge, getting an odd safety by Garcia, a field goal and a 51-yard touchdown catch by Darius Hanks that turned a South Carolina's 21-9 lead into a 28-21 ballgame.
Alabama's last chance to tighten things came at the start of the fourth quarter when Jeffery, the SEC's leading receiver, bobbled a catch into the hands of Tide defensive back Will Lowery for an interception.
But Greg McElroy was sacked for a 7-yard loss by Stephon Gilmore and Alabama coach Nick Saban called a fake field goal that didn't come close to working as defensive lineman Ed Stinson dropped the throw from holder A.J. McCarron.
South Carolina answered with a 75-yard drive, capped by Lattimore's 2-yard score with 7:01 left that put the game away.
When Spurrier arrived at South Carolina from the Washington Redskins, expectations in Columbia soared. He had dominated the SEC and led Florida to a national championship in 1996 before trying out the NFL.
South Carolina has been good under Spurrier, but still hasn't won the SEC East — and never really has come close. This bunch of Gamecocks might be able to change that.
Alabama could not respond and South Carolina fans, as they had after the basketball team beat Kentucky in January and the baseball team beat Arizona State at the College World Series in June, celebrated beating the country's No. 1 team.
Spurrier earned his 107th SEC victory, breaking a tie for second with Mississippi great Johnny Vaught. Alabama's Paul “Bear” Bryant is the all-time leader with 159 league wins.
“I gave myself a game ball for that one,” Spurrier said.
Lattimore finished with 93 yards. He also caught Garcia's first scoring pass, a 9-yard touchdown in the opening quarter.
Garcia was a tidy 17 of 20 for 201 yards and the one interception. He also picked up a critical fourth-and-1 on the Gamecocks final scoring drive. Jeffery had seven receptions for 127 yards, including TD catches of 26 and 15 yards.
McElroy threw for a career-high 315 yards, but was sacked seven times.