GeauxTigerNation will be counting down the five biggest moments from LSU's 2012 regular season. This is the first of five.
It all seems a bit surreal now -- LSU was coming off a 14-6 loss to Florida in which the Tigers ran for a mere 42 yards. South Carolina was riding into Tiger Stadium on an all-time high after walloping Georgia, 35-7. The Gamecocks were ranked No. 3 in the country, and the outlook for the Tigers' offense was grim.
Of course, with their backs against the wall the Tigers' offense exploded for 408 yards in a 23-21 win against South Carolina. Zach Mettenberger threw for a good-but-not-great 148 yards, and Drew Alleman connected on three of four field goals.
But the real story of the night was the arrival of freshman tailback Jeremy Hill, who broke into the LSU fanbase's consciousness with a 17-carry, 124-yard performance against the Gamecocks. Hill didn't exactly come out of nowhere -- he had carried the ball 13 times for 71 yards and two touchdowns to that point in the season. But the vast majority of that had come in garbage time against overmatched opponents.
All that changed with 5:14 to play against the Gamecocks, with LSU clinging to a 16-14 lead at midfield. Hill took a short toss from Mettenberger off right tackle, where he slipped away from a falling defensive lineman. From there, he reversed across field and blew past South Carolina All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, and he was suddenly in a foot race against the Gamecock secondary. Hill avoided the last of his potential tacklers at the 19-yard line, and he was into the end zone for what proved to be an important two-possession lead.
The 50-yard scamper was undoubtedly the highlight of Hill's night, and one of the highlights of the Tigers' entire season. But the youngster also showed off his longevity with 17 carries against a physical Gamecock defense. Hill scored his first touchdown of the night on a seven-yard run to open the third quarter.
It's safe to say Hill didn't disappear back into the depth chart after his big outing against South Carolina. The Gamecocks were LSU's sixth opponent, and Hill entered the game with fewer than 100 yards on the season. The freshman finished the campaign with a team-best 651 yards, an average of 108 yards per game during the final six games. Hill's two scores against the Gamecocks were also the third and fourth of what turned out to be a 10-touchdown campaign.