No. 15/13 Gamecocks Rally to Defeat Mississippi State, 14-12
Oct. 15, 2011
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Junior wide receiver Alshon Jeffery hauled in a 4-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw for the game-winning touchdown with 3:50 remaining to lift No. 15/13 South Carolina to a 14-12 comeback win over Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon at Scott Field.
The Gamecocks trailed 10-7 with 9:50 left in the fourth quarter but they put together a 12-play, 79-yard scoring drive to take their first lead of the contest on Jeffery's touchdown reception. Jeffery outleaped two defenders to come down with the reception, which moved him into sole possession second place on the school's all-time list for touchdown receptions with 20, trailing only Sidney Rice's (2005-06) 23.
"It was a struggle. We had a bunch of bad plays, but somehow or another Conner (Shaw) found Alshon (Jeffery) on the jump ball," said head coach Steve Spurrier, who collected his 50th win at the helm of the South Carolina program on Saturday. "We had been trying to get the jump ball thrown all day and he finally threw it perfect instead of out of the ballpark like the earlier one."
Junior defensive back D.J. Swearinger sealed the win by intercepting a pass from Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell on the ensuing possession.
With the win, the Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1 SEC) become bowl eligible for the eighth straight year. It is also South Carolina's fifth straight true road win, which is a school record.
"We're going to go in there and celebrate becoming bowl eligible," Spurrier said. "That's something we're never going to take for granted. That's an accomplishment."
Shaw shook off two interceptions to complete 20-of-28 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown. The Flowery Branch, Ga., native also added 28 yards on the ground. Freshman Bruce Ellington played a key role in the offensive scheme as he rushed for 25 yards, completed 2-of-3 passes for 24 yards and caught four passes for 32 yards.
Sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore, who left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury, had 17 carries for 39 yards and a touchdown. Lattimore now has 30 career touchdowns and is just three shy of the school record of 33 set by George Rogers (1977-80) and Harold Green (1986-89). He also moved into 14th all-time in school history in rushing yards with 2,015, becoming just the 15th player in school history to surpass the 2,000-yard mark.
The Gamecock defense held the Bulldogs to 296 yards of offense on the day led by a career-high 12 tackles from Swearinger. Senior spur Antonio Allen added 10 stops, including one for a loss.
"It wasn't a real pretty game for us, but we managed about two 80-yard drives and our defense was super," Spurrier said. "We held them to 10 points, which is good against anybody."
The Bulldogs (3-4, 0-4) struck first with a 10-play, 69-yard scoring drive. Russell found Chris Smith across the middle for a 19-yard scoring strike to cap the drive, giving Mississippi State a 7-0 lead at the 1:09 mark of the first quarter.
The Gamecocks answered in the second quarter with a 13-play, 80-yard drive, with Ellington and Lattimore doing a majority of the damage. Ellington caught three passes for 24 yards, rushed one time for three yards and threw a 16-yard pass to Lattimore. Lattimore also had three rushes for 18 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown run to end the drive and knot the game at 7-7.
South Carolina threatened to take the lead less than two minutes later after Reginald Bowens intercepted a Russell pass and returned it 19 yards to the Bulldog 11-yard line. But Mississippi State returned the favor, as Johnthan Banks intercepted a Shaw pass in the end zone, leaving the contest tied at 7-7 at the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Mississippi State regained the lead on a 22-yard field goal by Derek DePasquale with 9:50 remaining, but the Gamecocks responded with the game-winning drive capped by Jeffery's 4-yard touchdown reception from Shaw.
Russell completed 11-of-29 passes for 165 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, while Vick Ballard added 67 yards rushing on 20 carries for the Bulldogs.
South Carolina has next week off before it returns to action in the second of three straight road games on Saturday, Oct. 29 at Tennessee.