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October 5, 2013
South Carolina defeated Kentucky 35-28 Saturday night, and here are five key plays from the Gamecock victory.
Get on top early
The game was a mismatch on paper, but the Gamecocks have struggled to put away inferior teams this season. Whether it has been a slow start, slow finish, or both, they have let lesser teams hang around. Against Kentucky on Saturday, South Carolina did its best to get on top early. On the third play from scrimmage, Connor Shaw threw deep to Damiere Byrd. Byrd ran a simple go route and got a step. Shaw hit him in stride, and Byrd strolled into the end zone and USC led 7-0 less than two minutes into the game.
Shaw scrambles for a first down
After the Gamecock defense forced a quick punt, the offense went right back to work. Facing third-and-10 from the Gamecock 42, Shaw dropped back to pass. Finding nobody open, he scrambled left and ran up the sideline. He powered his way for the final 2 yards, despite the injured shoulder, and picked up the first down. The play was a prime example of why Shaw is so valuable to the Gamecocks. Not only does his scrambling ability bring another dimension to the offense, but he has the toughness to make plays that aren't always there (even if the coaches probably wanted him to slide on that play).
And keep scoring
Shaw's first down run was a nice emotional boost, but the Gamecocks still had to capitalize. Four plays later they were in the end zone. After Mike Davis picked up 23 yards on a screen pass, the Gamecocks had the ball on the Kentucky 22. The Wildcats blitzed, and Shaw handed off to Davis in the shotgun. The offensive line picked up the blitz and opened a huge hole on the left side. Davis scooted through and rushed untouched for the score.
Carolina took care of the first part of the game plan: get up early and get up big. It failed mightily at the second part: close out. Going into the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks had settled for a pair of field goals on their last two drives. Touchdowns would have clinched the game. Field goals made the lead comfortable, but Kentucky was still within striking distance if it could catch a break. Enter Bruce Ellington. After a Kentucky touchdown cut the score to 27-14, Ellington fumbled the ensuing kickoff. It took Kentucky just five plays to reach the end zone against a befuddled Gamecock defense.
Shaw to the rescue
After Kentucky pulled to within 27-21, Ellington again bobbled the kick return. He recovered but gave USC the ball with bad field position, on its own 11. After a short run, Shaw kept the ball on a zone read and rushed off tackle for a 31-yard gain. The big gain gave the Gamecocks the spark they had been lacking, and they started gobbling up yardage in bunches. Davis had a long pass reception and Pharoh Cooper had a nice run out of the Wildcat to set up Shaw for a 2-yard touchdown. He tacked on a two-point conversion with a pass to Nick Jones, and South Carolina was back up by two touchdowns.
GCTV: The Postgame Report
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