It was a day of maximizing opportunities.
Connor Shaw completed 10 passes, but four were for touchdowns. Shaq Roland caught two passes, but both were for touchdowns. Mississippi State turned the ball over five times, and South Carolina scored off four of them.
Shaw put it succinctly, especially after the offense barely cracked 300 yards and the Gamecocks were 1-of-11 on third down.
“The only way you win with that is when your defense forces (five) turnovers,” he said.
Roland peeled away from his man for a 14-yard touchdown pass from Shaw to start USC’s scoring, then later caught Shaw’s eye on a 43-yard sideline catch-and-run. As Nickoe Whitley tried to knock Roland out of bounds, Roland spun, watched Whitley sail into the grass and strolled into the end zone.
It was something that the sophomore needed after being docked three games for a violation of university policy and then being held to one catch for 4 yards at Missouri. Probably the most talented of USC’s wide receivers, Roland has been hampered by inconsistency.
“It was just something I needed to overcome,” Roland said. “It was a good test for me. I learned from it.”
Leading 17-10 at halftime after two quarters of futility, eyebrows shot up when Landon Ard’s second-half kickoff was a screaming line drive that was gobbled at the Mississippi State 48 by Christian Holmes.
“That wasn’t a squib kick, that was a line shot,” coach Steve Spurrier clarified. “Landon just hit it low.”
The gaffe gave the Bulldogs terrific field position, but Dak Prescott fumbled two plays later. USC scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive to take control of the game.
Mike Davis’ 1,000-yard season has him in select company. The sophomore is the eighth Gamecock to reach the mark, after Clarence Williams, Kevin Long, George Rogers (three times), Harold Green, Duce Staley, Derek Watson and Marcus Lattimore.
Rogers continues to lead the pack with his Heisman Trophy-winning season of 1980 (1,894 yards). Davis ended Saturday with 1,058.
Elliott Fry continues to have a terrific season. The freshman walk-on from Frisco, Texas, booted field goals of 44 and 37 yards to make him 10-of-12 for the season. Adam Yates was 11-of-17 during the 2012 season.
Fry has an outside shot of creeping into the career leaders for made field goals in a season. Mark Fleetwood and Spencer Lanning (in 2009 and 2010) are tied for fourth with 17.
USC has beaten Mississippi State seven consecutive times, its longest current streak against an SEC team. The Gamecocks have beaten Vanderbilt five straight times.
For the fourth consecutive week, USC’s four captains were seniors Shaw, Ronald Patrick, Chaz Sutton and Jimmy Legree.
Cody Waldrop (ankle) didn’t dress, and Clayton Stadnik started at center. Ronald Patrick (knee), Mike Davis (foot) and Shaw (virus) all started, and Gerald Dixon Jr. (ankle) played.