Sat Jan 01 06:52am EST
South Carolina's star freshman, Marcus Lattimore, got off to another fast start Friday night, turning a short pass on the Gamecocks' third snap of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl into a 53-yard gain into Florida State territory. Three plays later, though, Lattimore's night came to an abrupt end, courtesy of diminutive FSU cornerback Greg Reid:
Lattimore suffered a concussion on the hit, according to coach Steve Spurrier, and spent the night in the hospital, getting his mouth surgically stitched. The fumble was his first career turnover, but only the first of five Gamecock giveaways on the night – three on interceptions from the arm of Stephen Garcia, and another on a fumble by All-American receiver Alshon Jeffery. Backups Kenny Miles and Brian Maddox kept Carolina's running game on track with 123 yards on 22 carries between them, but it wasn't enough to negate the turnovers in a 26-17 Florida State win.
Reid, listed at 174 pounds, was punching at least 40 pounds out of his weight class in the collision, and he was only getting started: With four passes broken up, a second forced fumble and a pair of big punt returns that set up FSU field goals, the former five-star recruit delivered the breakout performance of the night, setting himself up for a big, hype-fulfilling junior season in the fall.
The rest of the Seminoles may be right there with him as a team. The bowl victory sealed the 'Noles' first 10-win season since 2003, and will almost certainly leave them in the top 20 in the final polls for the first time since 2004, the first year of ACC expansion. Beyond that, though, the real test for Jimbo Fisher's first season in place of Bobby Bowden was whether a stagnant program had regained some momentum toward its birthright as ACC overlord and perennial national contender under the new administration. They're still on their way, but as far as momentum goes, Friday night was a confident "yes."
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.