COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Will Muschamp looked to a higher power after Chris Lammons landed his two-punch combination.
Lammons, who was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct in the first quarter of Saturday night’s 24-21 upset win against Tennessee, opened with an uppercut to the body before connecting on a right-cross to Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings.
“I said a quick prayer to myself,” Muschamp said. “I hope we don’t lose another (cornerback), because we ain’t got any. Chris lost his temper. You’ve got to keep your cool in those situations.”
“But Rashad Fenton came in and did a nice job against some bigger receivers. Jamarcus King continues to play well, made a really nice break on the ball on the interception there late.”
Not mentioned by the Gamecocks first-year head coach was Steven Montac, who saw a majority of the snaps at nickel when Fenton was forced to move outside to Lammons’ vacated spot.
After the game, Lammons issued an apology.
Unless the SEC office says otherwise, Muschamp expects to have Lammons back in the starting lineup for next Saturday’s game against Missouri.
“To my knowledge, any ejection — if you’re ejected in the first half and miss the rest of the game, you’re allowed to start and come back the next game,” Muschamp said. “That’s up to commissioner (Greg) Sankey.”
In the fourth quarter, Lammons was joined in the locker room by starting safety D.J. Smith after he was penalized for targeting.
“On those bang-bang situations, they’re going to err on safety. That’s what we’ve been told and that’s what they should do,” Muschamp said. “It’s a player-safety issue. If the head is involved in it and he’s defenseless, which he was in that situation, the flag is going to be thrown and they’re probably going to uphold the call. Again, it’s all about player safety.”
Muschamp minced words when asked for his thoughts on the officials’ decision to uphold the ruling on the field.
“Whether I agree with it or not, it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “Having played the position, it’s hard. A lot of guys making rules have never played. That’s part of our issue.”
South Carolina’s secondary didn’t have many issues handling Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs, who completed 12 of 26 passes for 161 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.
King had both interceptions, one of which came late in the fourth quarter.
“Coach (Travaris Robinson) and coach Muschamp put us in a good position with the call. It was a cover-2 call, so they already knew it was coming and they put me in position to make a play on the first one,” King said. “And the second one, I just fit the zone and (Dobbs) threw the ball. He stared him down.”
King is tied with Lammons for the team lead in interceptions (3).
“Jamarcus is instinctive. He’s got length. He has all the physical attributes that we like and he’s been a very coachable guy since he’s been here,” Muschamp said. “He works. He listens. When you correct him, he doesn’t take it personally. He tries to learn and listen.
“(Robinson) does a really good job with those guys. He does a great job of teaching fundamentals, technique, eye-control, all the things that you need to teach.”
On Saturday night, King’s presence was felt, even without his counterpart on the other side of the field.
“I just pretty much told the corners we have to step up and the next man up has to make plays. The ball came my way and I had to make a play,” King said. “Basically, we were playing for Chris.”