Stephen Garcia threw for three touchdowns and ran for another and No. 25 South Carolina stopped a potential tying two-point conversion in the fourth quarter to beat Kentucky 28-26 on Saturday, keeping coach Steve Spurrier a perfect 17-0 against the Wildcats.
The Gamecocks (5-1, 2-1 SEC) won their 10th straight over Kentucky (2-3, 0-3).
Wildcats quarterback Mike Hartline left the game with a sprained left knee early in the third quarter after leading Kentucky to a 17-14 halftime lead.
Garcia had touchdown passes of 10, 28 and 22 yards to freshman Alshon Jeffery. Garcia added what proved to be the winning margin with his leap from the 1 with 8:22 remaining to give South Carolina a 28-20 lead.
Kentucky had a chance to tie after Randall Cobb's 2-yard TD run with 4:34 left. But Will Fidler's pass was knocked down by defensive end Cliff Matthews.
Facing third-and-4 moments later, Garcia gained 5 yards leaping over a Kentucky defender to keep South Carolina moving with 3:02 to go. Kentucky never got the ball back as South Carolina matched its best start in Spurrier's five seasons.
The Gamecocks have a difficult road to keep things going as they head to No. 3 Alabama next Saturday.
And they'll definitely have to be sharper than they were against Kentucky.
South Carolina's defense, which came in third in the SEC, could not stop a Kentucky attack that had managed only 240 yards a game the past two weeks against the league's No. 1 and No. 2 defenses in Florida and Alabama.
The Wildcats got nearly that much against the Gamecocks in the opening half with 213 yards built on scoring drives of 82, 59 and 54 yards.
Things changed, though, when Hartline left the game. He had thrown a touchdown pass and was 9 of 14 for 139 yards. Kentucky, which had converted 6 of 11 third downs in the opening half, was only 2 of 8 over the final 30 minutes.
It was the second time in the past four seasons the Wildcats opened SEC play with three straight defeats.
Spurrier himself said this week he didn't understand South Carolina's mastery over Kentucky.
The Wildcats had some untimely mistakes in this one.
With Kentucky in sure field goal range in the third quarter, Cobb failed on a fake. Tight end T.C. Drake dropped a certain touchdown on the Wildcats' next series.
Kentucky's Derrick Locke picked up a first down on fourth-and-2 a drive later. But the play was called back because of a false start.
South Carolina's Kenny Miles finished with 100 yards on 17 rushes. Jeffery had 138 yards on seven receptions.
Maybe it was the early start, South Carolina's fall break or the relatively small crowd - the 68,278 was the lowest attendance at Williams-Brice Stadium since the Gamecocks went 1-10 in 1998. A false start on South Carolina's first drive ruined a fourth-and-1 pickup. Garcia was sacked twice and was intercepted for the first time in 124 attempts covering four games to end another sequence.
Kentucky took advantage.
Hartline hit Gene McCaskill for a 31-yard completion to South Carolina's 11, then found Locke for a touchdown and a 10-7 lead.
After the Gamecocks moved in front on Jeffery's second touchdown catch, Hartline connected on passes of 55 and 7 yards to Cobb to put the Wildcats ahead 17-14.