COLUMBIA -- Nick Jones has been watching Marcus Lattimore run with a football probably longer than anyone on the planet.

So, there's nothing that the South Carolina receiver saw from his childhood friend Saturday night against Navy that surprised him.

Not the career-high 246 rushing yards, not the 37 attempts or his three touchdowns.

Nothing.

"I've been watching Marcus run since we were 7 years old," said Jones, who was Lattimore's teammate at Byrnes High School. "That's just Marcus. He's amazing."

The Gamecocks needed every one of Lattimore's career-high 246 yards -- the most ever by a running back on a Steve Spurrier-coached team -- as the 10th-ranked Gamecocks held on to beat Navy, 24-21, in the home opener before a crowd of 78,807 at Williams-Brice Stadium.

To put Lattimore's performance into historical perspective, it was the fourth-highest rushing total in school history, more yards than Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers ever rushed for in a single game.

"Obviously, Marcus Lattimore had a tremendous game," Spurrier said. "We figured the best way to try and win the game was to just hand it to him and keep blocking."

Lattimore, who also had four catches for 25 yards, finished with 271 yards

of offense. The soft-spoken sophomore said he won't feel the effect of the pounding he took from the Midshipmen until he wakes up in the morning.

"I feel good right now," Lattimore said with a chuckle. "A game like this doesn't hit you until about 9 o'clock in the morning. You feel like you can't get up, but hot tub, cold tub, I'll be ready by Tuesday.

"Navy was the most disciplined team I've ever played against. I had to take the six, seven yards they were giving me because there was no way I was going to break a long one on them."

It wasn't easy for the Gamecocks, especially defensively, as they struggled to stop the Midshipmen -- the nation's No. 1 rushing team. USC held Navy to 274 rushing yards, 126 below its season average.

"Navy's offense takes the athleticism off the field," said USC defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. "It doesn't matter how fast you are or how big you are. They run that offense as well as anybody. Their offense is designed to always get three yards.

Personally, I'm like (Alabama coach Nick) Saban; I wouldn't schedule these guys."

After giving up 21 points in the first three quarters, the Gamecocks were able to hold the Midshipmen scoreless over the final 20 minutes of the game, including coming up with two crucial stops in the fourth quarter.

"I told our defensive guys that I was really proud of our defense for stopping them in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line," Spurrier said.

A back-and-forth first half saw the Gamecocks go into the locker room with a 17-14 lead on Jay Wooten's 48-yard field goal as time expired.

After a Stephen Garcia interception on the Gamecocks' first possession of the second half, the Midshipmen grabbed a 21-17 lead on Alex Teich's 2-yard run with 3:35 left in the third quarter.

But then the Gamecocks marched 79 yards in 15 plays with Lattimore carrying the ball nine times, capping it off with the game-winner on a 7-yard TD run with 12:45 left in the game.

"We had a hard time tackling (Lattimore)," said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. "Guy is a heck of a back. He's a very patient runner, but so explosive. He gets hit at the line of scrimmage and drags us for more yards. He is everything he was built up to be."