Steve Spurrier promised this week to be more positive about his team in victory.
South Carolina put that to the test Saturday, holding off Kentucky 35-28 after nearly blowing a 21-point lead. The No. 13 Gamecocks won their 14th game and improved to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC.
They did not make it easy on themselves, though. After jumping out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, South Carolina found itself clinging to a six-point lead with 11:50 remaining after Wildcats quarterback Jalen Whitlow completed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Timmons to cut the Gamecock lead to 27-21.
South Carolina seemed to put the game away on the ensuing possession, with a seven-play, 89-yard drive capped by a 2-yard scoring run by quarterback Connor Shaw with 8:05 remaining, but Kentucky answered again to pull back within one possession at 38-28.
Still, the second half featured the Gamecocks’ familiar warts – poor defensive finishing and special teams fiascos.
The Gamecocks looked unstoppable for 16 minutes, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions with senior Connor Shaw at quarterback. Shaw, who opened his day with a 62-yard touchdown pass to Damiere Byrd on the fourth play of the game, directed drives of 77, 80 and 71 yards to open the game.
Mike Davis’ 1-yard rum with 14:20 left in the second quarter gave the Gamecocks a 21-0 lead.
The Wildcats responded with a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 2-yard run by Raymond Sanders that closed the gap to 21-7 with 7:38 left in the second quarter.
South Carolina put in backup quarterback Dylan Thompson on the fourth series of the game, a drive that ended in the Gamecocks’ only punt of the first half.
Elliott Fry capped the first half scoring with a 40-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the second quarter to send South Carolina to the locker room with a 24-7 lead.