COLUMBIA, S.C. — As with any game, injuries played at least a small factor.
The most notable issue coming out of Alabama’s loss Saturday at South Carolina involves starting right guard D.J. Fluker. Though not addressed by coach Nick Saban in the postgame news conference, Fluker left the stadium on crutches after going down with a lower leg injury in the third quarter.
Julio Jones wasn’t practicing at full strength earlier in the week, but he appeared to be close to full strength Saturday afternoon.
Coming back from what Saban called a bruised knee suffered against Florida, Jones caught a team-high eight passes for 118 yards.
Easily his biggest catch of the day came on third-and-goal from the 8 in the first half. Jones reached up and hauled in a Greg McElroy pass that sailed a little high. The touchdown cut the halftime lead to 21-9 after the missed extra point.
South Carolina also had a few moments of tension when star freshman running back Marcus Lattimore went to the sideline in the third quarter. Coach Steve Spurrier said Lattimore banged his funny bone and had trouble feeling his hand, so he wasn’t comfortable with handing him the ball.
The bruising running back came back, though, and ran for a game-high 95 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns. In his absence, Brian Maddox ran five times for 30 yards.
For the second straight week, a faulty long snap cost Alabama field position.
First-year starting long snapper Carson Tinker skipped one to freshman punter Cody Mandell in the first quarter. In turn, Mandell appeared to rush his motion and shanked one that landed on the South Carolina bench.
The punt travelled just 15 yards and put South Carolina on the Alabama 38.
South Carolina went on to score on the drive to take a 14-3 lead at the end of the quarter.
Against Florida last week, a less-than perfect snap led to a 26-yard punt that put the Gators in position to kick a field goal just before halftime.
Tinker replaced four-year starter Brian Selman, who graduated without botching a single long snap.
More special-teams miscues
Jeremy Shelley also replaced a longtime starter in Leigh Tiffin and had been cruising along until Saturday.
The sophomore kicker had a rough second quarter, starting with a missed 30-yard field-goal attempt at the end of a 15-play drive that stalled at the 13.
Then when the offense completed its first drive of the afternoon, Shelley misfired on the extra point. He had made the first 20 of the season.
Tiffin, though a Lou Groza Award finalist last season, missed his share of extra points. He missed four of his 46 attempts as a senior in 2009.
Shelley recovered to make a 40-yard field goal in the third quarter to cut the Gamecocks’ lead to 21-14 with 9:37 left in the period.
Ingram not so wild
After burning South Carolina on the game-clinching drive of a 20-6 win last year, there weren’t many opportunities for running back Mark Ingram to run the wildcat this time.
After falling behind early and with the Gamecocks loading the box, the short passing game became the focus.
Alabama ran the wildcat six times in the first half, with Ingram and Trent Richardson combining for 24 yards on a day of redemption for the Gamecocks’ defense.
“People talked about how dominating (Alabama’s) offensive line was,” defensive tackle Melvin Ingram said. “We just wanted to accept the challenge and go out and show how dominating we are.”
It’s been an issue all season, but Alabama’s over aggression on the defensive line cost the Tide big on Saturday.
Alabama was penalized four times for jumping offside, although two were declined.
Both accepted flags contributed to South Carolina touchdown drives, including one on Darrington Sentimore.
His infraction on third-and-10 came midway through the 15-play drive that put the Gamecocks ahead 28-14.