Gamecocks Bounce Bulldogs, 41-20
Nov. 19, 2011
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw completed 16-of-18 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns and added a career-high 90 yards and a score on the ground to lead No. 14 South Carolina to a 41-20 victory over The Citadel on Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The Gamecocks improve to 9-2 on the season with the victory.
With Shaw leading the way, South Carolina had one of its best offensive efforts of the season, racking up 473 yards of total offense.
"Connor (Shaw) had his best game, I think, ever as a Gamecock," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said. "He definitely was a game-ball guy. Football is a team sport, and it was time for the offense to be the main part in us winning a game."
Freshman running back Brandon Wilds rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries and chipped in 50 yards receiving. A week after becoming the Gamecocks' all-time leader in receiving yards, junior Alshon Jeffery led the way with five receptions for 81 yards and a score. Sophomore Ace Sanders hauled in four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown, and freshman Rory Anderson had a 20-yard touchdown reception.
The Gamecock defense had another stellar effort as it allowed 249 yards (241 rushing, eight passing) on the day. The eight yards passing is the fewest allowed by South Carolina in the Spurrier era. Senior linebacker Rodney Paulk recorded a career-high 12 tackles and a forced fumble to lead the Carolina defense.
The Gamecocks came out strong after receiving the opening kickoff with a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive. Shaw completed passes of 22 and 9 yards to Jeffery to begin the drive, and a 20-yard connection with Wilds set Carolina up at The Citadel 7. Two plays later, Wilds busted into the end zone from a yard out to give South Carolina a 7-0 lead at the 10:17 mark of the first quarter. The score marked the first time the Gamecocks have scored first in a contest this season.
The Bulldogs (4-7) answered after Rah Muhammad intercepted a Shaw pass to set the Citadel up at the Gamecock 35. The Citadel running back Darien Robinson carried the ball five straight times for 34 yards and recovered his own fumble in the end zone on the final carry for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with 4:47 left in the first. Robinson finished the day with 88 yards on 20 carries to lead the Bulldogs.
South Carolina regained the lead on the ensuing possession, as Wilds capped an 18-play, 72-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Jay Wooten drilled the extra point to give the Gamecocks a 14-7 advantage with 10:29 left in the half. The drive ate up 9:18 off the clock, making it the second longest drive by time of the Spurrier era.
"Might have been the best offensive game since I've been here," Spurrier said. "We had seven possessions and scored six touchdowns and had that one pick on a first-down play. All the guys played really well."
A 32-yard field goal by Ryan Sellers on The Citadel's next possession pulled the Bulldogs to within 14-10 with 2:09 left, but Shaw used his legs to push South Carolina's lead back to double digits less than a minute later.
On first and 10 from the Gamecock 40, Shaw went right on a keeper, turned up the field and raced 60 yards untouched for a career-long touchdown run to give South Carolina a 20-10 lead.
"I set up the defender off of Kenny (Miles)," Shaw said. "Kenny had a great block. I knew if I could get by Kenny, I could take it to the house. It was great perimeter blocking."
The Bulldogs trimmed South Carolina's lead to 20-13 at the half on a 41-yard field goal by Sellers.
But the Gamecocks pulled away in the final 30 minutes. On South Carolina's first possession of the second half, Shaw connected with Sanders for a 25-yard scoring strike to give the Gamecocks a 27-13 lead with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
South Carolina pushed its lead to 34-13 early in the fourth quarter. On first and 10 from The Citadel 32, Shaw lofted the ball toward Jeffery, who made a spectacular one-handed grab for the touchdown with 11:07 remaining.
"We see it in practice a lot," Shaw said of Jeffery's remarkable catch. "That was one heckuva catch out there. It was pretty special. I was in awe of it for a second."
After The Citadel made it a 34-20 contest on a 12-yard touchdown run by Ricky Anderson on the ensuing possession, Shaw put the exclamation point on the win by hooking up with Anderson for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds left to push Carolina's lead to 41-20.
The Gamecocks return to action on Saturday, Nov. 26 as they host archrival Clemson in the regular-season finale. Kickoff has been set for 7:45 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.