Heisman Race Review: Marcus Lattimore holds steady after solid performance against Vanderbilt

On Marcus Lattimore's first carry of the 2012 season, he fumbled the ball away to Vanderbilt.

The reaction on the internet was instantaneous and light-hearted: "Lattimore's Heisman stock...dropping," tweeted Kevin McGuire of The Examiner.com.

It was a tweet to keep things in perspective, as observers are sometimes a bit quick with the hook when analyzing a poor performance in the Heisman race. They can also be overly eager to make too much of an average showing.

By the time Lattimore recovered to finish with 110 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries in South Carolina's ugly 17-13 win over Vanderbilt, it was clear that his Heisman status had essentially remained unchanged. He is still a longshot in a field dominated by more well-established players.

Had Lattimore rushed for 150-plus yards in a comfortable South Carolina win, people would be buzzing now about how he was back better than ever from last season's knee injury. If he had been held to 60 yards, they'd be muttering about how he wasn't the player he once was.

The reality is that, last night, Lattimore really was his old self again. He displayed power, vision, good hands and balance. But he also showed his usual lack of speed to the edge and a lot of wasted movement on some runs in the open field. His yards per carry on the night was 4.78. His career average coming in?  4.89. He rushed for 110 yards. His career average? 101 yards.

In other words, Lattimore sort of did what he always does. He grinded away and finished with solid numbers.

The problem is that if he keeps it up, it won't be enough to compete for the Heisman.

To make a legitimate run at the trophy, Lattimore will need to pick up the pace considerably. He'll need to be spectacular. One can't win the Heisman playing for South Carolina with a season-long string of solid, mundane efforts. Working against Lattimore is his particular skill set as a running back--we won't see many 70-yard runs--plus the schizophrenic nature of the Gamecock offense. If the Vandy game is any indication, he might be hard pressed to find his groove.

So did Lattimore hurt his Heisman chances on Thursday night? Did he help them?

He did neither. He did, however, do enough to keep his name in the conversation for at least the next few weeks. Voters will check in again in earnest in early October, when the Gamecocks take on Georgia and then LSU.

In the meantime, it's up to Lattimore to do his part by piling up some good numbers against the likes of East Carolina, UAB and Kentucky.

For more Heisman talk, check out Chris Huston's interview on College Football 360:

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