South Carolina’s offense was the rock, the cornerstone, of the team this year. While the defense and special teams struggled, Connor Shaw and Company were rolling up yards and points, and everything else could be worked on.
While the news certainly isn’t as bad as it looked early in Saturday’s 28-25 victory against Central Florida, the No. 12 Gamecocks will have to adjust their offense, too.
Shaw injured his shoulder in the first quarter and didn’t return, while backup running back Brandon Wilds dislocated his elbow in the third quarter and also didn’t return. Each player lost a fumble on the same play they were injured, kicking the Gamecocks when they were down. But coach Steve Spurrier said the injuries shouldn’t be that severe.
“Connor Shaw bruised his shoulder pretty good, jammed it,” Spurrier said. “They say he’ll be out maybe a week or two, but it’s not out of place or anything. Brandon dislocated his elbow, and he’ll be out two or three weeks, probably.”
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The way Shaw howled when he got hit, and how he went to the locker room in the company of team physician Dr. Jeff Guy, had USC thinking of last year, when Shaw fractured his shoulder and had it linger all season. But Shaw spent the rest of the game on the sideline, arm in a sling and towel on his head.
Wilds’ injury might be a bit trickier. It’s the Gamecocks’ third dislocated elbow this year after linebackers Kyle Morini and Cedrick Cooper. Morini and Cooper each did theirs in the preseason and were given the same diagnosis, but Morini was better in that time frame and Cooper got on the field Saturday.
Dylan Thompson will start in Shaw’s absence, with redshirt freshman Brendan Nosovitch behind him. Mike Davis remains the starter at tailback, with Shon Carson likely filling in at backup.
Jonathan Walton (shoulder) was fine, as were Jadeveon Clowney (illness/foot) and Chaz Sutton (foot). Cody Waldrop (foot) started the game, left for a series in the third quarter, but returned. Jimmy Legree and Kaiwan Lewis were rung up on the same play late in the game but were fine afterwards.
As promised, USC shook up its kick returners, starting Bruce Ellington at kickoff and Victor Hampton at punt. Ellington didn’t get his hands on a kick except the most important one — an onside kick that UCF attempted in the final minutes and that Ellington returned 31 yards. Hampton, after catching a ball at the 6-yard-line in the first quarter and getting slung into the end zone, had that for his only catch of the day.
Rory Anderson had been having a quiet season, seemingly having more drops than catches. That began again on Saturday, when he let a pass clang off his hands.
On the next play, Thompson hit Anderson for 6 yards. He finished with two catches for 34 yards, although he also didn’t reach for a pass that Thompson threw to the end zone.
Spurrier evened his record as USC coach playing in the state of Florida to 4-4. Spurrier has lost to Florida in Gainesville three times and won once, splitting two Outback Bowls (Tampa) and winning a Capital One Bowl (Orlando).
USC’s captains were Victor Hampton, Marcquis Roberts, Wilds and Ronald Patrick.
Former USC offensive lineman Terrence Campbell was spotted on the USC sideline during Saturday’s game.