Steve Spurrier promised this week to be more positive about his team in victory.
South Carolina made it difficult at times, as its All-America defensive end sat out the game and the rest of the defense disappeared again in the second half, but the No. 13 Gamecocks survived with a 35-28 win Kentucky in front of 82,313 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“We win. We win. That’s who we are. Might as well write it down,” Spurrier said as he entered his postgame news conference. “It is what it is. We can’t slow down anybody much when the second half gets rolling, but we’re 4-1.”
South Carolina (4-1, 2-1 SEC) clinched its 14th straight home victory when Mike Davis converted a third-and-3 with a 5-yard run with 2:15 left in the game, allowing South Carolina to run out the clock without putting its defense back on the field.
“It’s always fun to be tested,” Spurrier said, “you have to move the ball and score every time you touch it to win the game. I have been like this before. I coached at Duke back in those days when it was like that.”
Kentucky (1-4, 0-2) gained 201 of its 301 yards in the second half and outscored South Carolina 21-8 in the fourth quarter. Junior Jadeveon Clowney watched it all from the sideline after informing Spurrier just before the game that he could not play due to bruised ribs.
Clowney missed Thursday’s practice, but his decision not to play surprised both Spurrier and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward and left questions about his availability next week against Arkansas.
“If he doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t have to play, simple as that,” Spurrier said.
Quarterback Connor Shaw finished 17-of-20 for 262 yards and rushed for another 50 yards. Davis added 106 yards on the ground and 54 receiving yards as South Carolina scored on six of its first seven possessions.
“Lot of guys played super, most of them on offense,” Spurrier said. “Trying to remember when a big defensive play occurred. I can’t remember one.”
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 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 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.
Davis’ 1-yard run 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.
“We are still winning so that makes it not as tough as it could be,” Spurrier said. “We don’t like it, but if that’s who we are That’s the kind of team we’re going to be all year it looks like. We are going to try to change it though. I am not going to be negative today.”
USC: Byrd 62 pass from Shaw (Fry kick), 13:21.
USC: Davis 22 run (Fry kick), 6:36.
USC: Davis 1 run (Fry kick), 14:20.
UK: Sanders 2 run (Mansour kick), 7:38.
USC: FG Fry 40, :12.
USC: FG Fry 41, 4:59.
UK: D.Robinson 4 pass from Whitlow (Mansour kick), 13:43.
UK: Timmons 14 pass from Whitlow (Mansour kick), 11:50.
USC: Shaw 2 run (Jones pass from Shaw), 8:05.
UK: Whitlow 1 run (Mansour kick), 4:02.
|Time of Possession||30:15||29:45|
-- RUSHING: Kentucky, Whitlow 17-69, Kemp 12-40, Sanders 7-14. South Carolina, Davis 21-106, Shaw 9-50, P.Cooper 2-26, Carson 3-7, Thompson 1-(minus 5), Team 3-(minus 6).
-- PASSING: Kentucky, Whitlow 17-24-0-178. South Carolina, Shaw 17-20-0-262, Thompson 1-3-0-13.
-- RECEIVING: Kentucky, Blue 4-62, Timmons 4-36, Aumiller 3-34, Montgomery 2-16, Kendrick 1-16, Kemp 1-9, D.Robinson 1-4, Badet 1-1. South Carolina, Byrd 5-98, Davis 3-54, Adams 2-50, Jones 2-21, Anderson 2-18, P.Cooper 1-12, K.Smith 1-8, Carson 1-7, Ellington 1-7.