Steve Spurrier has a new quarterback and an old attitude.
South Carolina’s coach was in vintage form Saturday, making a quarterback switch, opening up his playbook, embarrassing an SEC opponent and then jabbing at the media after a 54-3 dismantling of Kentucky in Williams-Brice Stadium.
“What brought it on? I don’t know. It was just time to call some plays and see what happened,” Spurrier said. “I didn’t know if we could move the ball like this or not, but I knew we had to try.”
The No. 18 Gamecocks (5-1, 3-1 SEC) posted their largest margin of victory in an SEC game and largest margin against any opponent since beating Kent State by 63 points in 1995. South Carolina’s 639 yards were its most under Spurrier and most since a 2001 win against Vanderbilt.
“He called a great game,” said running back Marcus Lattimore, who had 22 carries for 102 yards. “I really don’t remember anything back from when he was in Florida, but he’s got all these weapons, and he used them all today. It was a great show.”
Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw directed it. Shaw replaced senior Stephen Garcia as starter and responded with 311 yards and four touchdowns on 26-of-39 passing.
“We had a lot of good plays called at the right time,” Spurrier said, “and he threw it perfectly and that’s the result we got.”
South Carolina ran 91 plays and did something different with almost all of them. The Gamecocks ran a formation almost identical to the unorthodox Emory and Henry Spurrier helped make famous while he was Florida with starting tackles split out as wide receivers. They also ran the option and a flea flicker, remembered their tight ends and got a 61-yard touchdown run from Bruce Ellington out of the wildcat formation.
“When the week started, he told us we were going to throw the ball a lot, we were going to air it out,” said wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who had six catches for 95 yards.
Shaw was making the second start of his career and first against an SEC opponent. Coming into the game, he had accounted for one touchdown in his career.
“We went out and played well,” he said. “I am very confident right now. I think the team rallied behind me a little bit, and we had a good turnout today.”
Spurrier scored more than 50 against an SEC opponent for the first time at South Carolina as five Gamecocks — wide receivers Bruce Ellington and Nick Jones, tight end Justice Cunningham and quarterbacks Dylan Thompson and Andrew Clifford — had their first career touchdowns.
“We have been trying to get more guys involved but the games have been so tight and close that you’re scared to try this, that and the other so you hand it off to Marcus and let the defense try to win it for you or keep it close,” Spurrier said. “But we knew we needed to open up.”
The offensive awakening overshadowed another dominant defensive performance. South Carolina held Kentucky to 96 yards and had as many interceptions as the Wildcats had pass completions (four). Kentucky’s only points came on a 15-yard scoring drive after a fumble. The Wildcats ran six plays in South Carolina territory and those came after they recovered a fumble at the South Carolina 26.
The Gamecocks kept firing until the end. Thompson’s touchdown — an 8-yard run — came with eight seconds left. When it was over, Spurrier told media members they couldn’t complain about the offense this week. He also said he wanted more.
“If we were really sharp today, as many opportunities as the offense had, we could have scored 70 or 80 points,” he said, “but anyway 50 was enough, 54 whatever.”
|Score by quarters||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||FINAL|
UK: FG McIntosh 28, 11:58.
USC: A. Jeffery 20 pass from C. Shaw (Wooten kick), 9:16.
USC: Cunningham 11 pass from C. Shaw (kick blocked), 11:23.
USC: A.Jeffery 24 pass from C. Shaw (Wooten kick), 7:43.
USC: Jones 25 pass from C. Shaw (Wooten kick), 8:46.
USC: FG Wooten 48, 1:43.
USC: FG Wooten 42, :00.
USC: Ellington 61 run (Wooten kick), 10:34.
USC: D.L. Moore 7 pass from Clifford (Wooten kick), 7:00.
USC: Thompson 8 run (Wooten kick), :08.
|Time of Possession||21:23||38:37|
RUSHING: Kentucky, Newton 14-54, Clemons 4-10, Sanders 4-8, George 4-6, Roark 1-1. South Carolina, Lattimore 22-102, Ellington 1-61, Wilds 5-45, C. Shaw 15-42, Byrd 1-21, Thompson 3-11, Clifford 1-6.
PASSING: Kentucky, Newton 4-21-1-17, Max. Smith 0-3-2-0, Clemons 0-1-1-0, Roark 0-1-0-0. South Carolina, C. Shaw 26-39-0-311, Clifford 2-2-0-23, Thompson 2-2-0-17.
RECEIVING: Kentucky, King 1-8, Roark 1-7, Clemons 1-4, Sanders 1-(minus 2). South Carolina, A. Jeffery 6-95, A. Sanders 5-53, Cunningham 5-46, Lattimore 4-14, Ellington 3-22, Jones 2-35, D.L.Moore 2-17, Anderson 1-46, Byrd 1-16, D.Smith 1-7.