Oct. 8, 2011
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw threw for a career-high 311 yards and four touchdowns to lead No. 18/14 South Carolina to a convincing 54-3 victory over Kentucky on Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Shaw completed 26-of-39 passes and added 42 yards rushing to help the Gamecocks (5-1, 3-1 SEC) amass 639 yards of total offense, their most since Oct. 20, 2001 against Vanderbilt (656).
"He was ready to play," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said of Shaw, who became the first South Carolina quarterback to throw for four touchdowns in a game since Blake Mitchell had four against Middle Tennessee State on Nov. 18, 2006. "Connor has been here for two years. He practiced well this week. He was sharper in practice than he was today. We had a lot of good plays called, and he threw them perfectly."
South Carolina racked up 288 yards on the ground led by sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore, who rushed for 102 yards on 22 carries. Lattimore has now rushed for 100 yards eight times in his career. Bruce Ellington added a 61-yard touchdown run. Junior Alshon Jeffery hauled in six passes for 95 yards and two scores, while sophomore Ace Sanders added 53 yards receiving and junior Justice Cunningham had 46 yards and a touchdown.
South Carolina's defense was also dominant on Saturday, holding the Wildcats (2-4, 0-3) to just 96 yards of offense (17 passing, 79 rushing) and forcing six turnovers. It marked the second time this season the Gamecocks have held a SEC opponent below 100 yards, as they accomplished the feat against Vanderbilt (77 yards) on Sept. 24. The Gamecocks have forced 10 turnovers in their last two outings.
"Today and Vandy were two dominant (games)," Spurrier said. "We have to carry this on. The defense is playing well after a rough start. I think we're hitting our stride now hopefully for the stretch run as we go."
The defense set the tone early after Kentucky recovered a South Carolina fumble on the opening kickoff at the Gamecock 26-yard line, holding the Wildcats to a 28-yard field goal by Craig McIntosh.
Shaw then guided the offense down the field to give the Gamecocks a lead they did not relinquish. Shaw completed a 46-yard pass to Rory Anderson to set South Carolina up at the Kentucky 20. On the next play, he found Jeffery for a 20-yard touchdown strike to give the Gamecocks a 7-3 advantage with 9:16 left in the first quarter.
South Carolina pushed its lead to 13-3 early in the second quarter, as Shaw found Cunningham for an 11-yard touchdown pass, capping a seven-play, 55-yard drive.
Shaw and Jeffery connected once again for a 24-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter to give the Gamecocks a 20-3 lead heading into the locker room. The touchdown reception moved Jeffery into a tie for second place on the Gamecocks' career receiving touchdowns list with 19, tying Robert Brooks (1988-91), Jermale Kelly (1997-2000) and Kenny McKinely (2005-08).
"We wanted to throw it at him," Spurrier said. "He ran some good routes. He was open a bunch."
Shaw threw for his fourth touchdowns on the afternoon on South Carolina's first drive of the third quarter, finding Nick Jones wide-open for a 25-yard scoring strike to give the Gamecocks a 27-3 lead at the 8:46 mark.
After Jay Wooten made field goal attempts of 48 and 42 yards to push the Gamecocks' lead to 33-3, Ellington put an exclamation point on the win with a 61-yard touchdown run with 10:34 left in the fourth quarter.
Morgan Newton had 54 yards rushing on 14 carries to lead the Wildcats but he completed just 4-of-21 passes for 17 yards. Winston Guy tallied 14 tackles in a solid defensive effort, while Danny Trevathan contributed 13 stops for Kentucky.
South Carolina returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 15, at Mississippi State. Kickoff is set for 12:21 ET in Starkville, Miss. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
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