Kentucky Falls at No. 18 South Carolina
Oct. 8, 2011
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns, leading No. 18 South Carolina to a 54-3 win over Kentucky on Saturday.
Shaw, a sophomore who took over as starter this week from fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia, completed 26 of 39 passes and had no interceptions.
The Gamecocks (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) gained 639 yards as they enjoyed their biggest margin of victory in an SEC game since joining the league in 1992.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier took advantage of Kentucky's bad defense to tinker with his own sputtering offense. He called direct snaps to the running back, threw to the tight end and even ran an option play.
The Wildcats (2-4, 0-3) offense gained just 96 yards, and their quarterbacks threw four interceptions and just four completions.
Kentucky might have been the perfect opponent after South Carolina's tumultuous week following its first defeat, a 16-13 loss to Auburn. Beside changing quarterbacks, Spurrier kept his offensive assistants away from the media and suggested some players might not need to talk to reporters as much.
The Wildcats came in losing their first two SEC games by an average of 33 points and allowing 434 yards a game. So Spurrier took the opportunity to shake things up with his offense. Whatever he chose worked, as the Gamecocks gained more than twice as many yards as they had in the Auburn game.
All-SEC running back Marcus Lattimore only ran the ball twice in the first quarter, while Alshon Jeffery, an all-SEC receiver last year, was thrown to eight times by Shaw.
In the second quarter, Spurrier turned back to Lattimore, who even took a couple of direct snaps. Shaw threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Justice Cunningham in a formation that had the tight end and just three linemen in front of the quarterback. Cunningham caught five passes for 46 yards after having just five receptions in the first five games.
South Carolina finished the first half with 292 yards.
Spurrier put in fourth string quarterback Dylan Thompson in with less than four minutes to go in the game and ran a drive that had five passes, ending with an 8-yard touchdown scramble by Thompson with nine seconds left, after he couldn't find an open receiver.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats offense was dreadful. They turned the ball over six times. They had just six first downs. Starting quarterback Morgan Newton was 4-for-20 for 17 yards.
So Kentucky turned to backup quarterback Maxwell Smith, who threw two interceptions his first two passes and nearly had his third pass picked off by blitzing linebacker Damario Jeffery. The Wildcats turned back to Newton, and promptly fumbled three plays later.
The Wildcats ran just six plays in South Carolina territory, all of them after the Gamecocks fumbled the opening kickoff. A 28-yard field goal by Craig McIntosh accounted for all Kentucky's points.
Alshon Jeffery caught five passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns, doubling his season total for TDs. Lattimore ran 22 times for 102 yards, while Bruce Ellington, moonlighting from his winter job as South Carolina's point guard, atoned for the fumbled kickoff by taking a direct snap 61 yards down the sideline for a touchdown that put the Gamecocks ahead 40-3 early in the fourth quarter.
Shaw's four touchdown passes were as many as Garcia has thrown all season and the most in a game for any South Carolina quarterback in almost five years. He got a loud cheer in the fourth quarter when he came out and Andrew Clifford came in for mop-up duty. Clifford got in the action too, throwing a 7-yard touchdown pass to D.L. Moore that put the Gamecocks ahead 47-3.
Garcia spent the game on the sidelines in a black ball cap, chatting with the other backup QBs.
Newton was Kentucky's leading rusher with 54 yards on 14 carries.