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October 8, 2011

Five key plays



Here are five key plays from South Carolina's victory over Kentucky.

Bruce Ellington fumbles the opening kickoff

Fortunately for the Gamecocks, this play ended up being virtually meaningless, but at the time it was the worst possible start for South Carolina. The last thing the Gamecocks wanted was to give offensively-challenged Kentucky a short field or force Connor Shaw to play from behind, but that is exactly what happened. Ellington fielded the opening kickoff and returned it to the 23, where he was stripped by Avery Williamson. Kentucky recovered at the 26, but Carolina's defense forced a field goal and a potential land mine was averted. As it turned out, it was the only time the Wildcats crossed midfield, while the Gamecocks rolled to 639 yards and 54 points.

Shaw puts the Gamecocks in the end zone

There was nothing spectacular about either pass, in fact the receiver did most of the work on both catches, but the South Carolina passing game answered in a way it hadn't all season. On third-and-seven Shaw completed a short pass to tight end Rory Anderson, who rumbled up the field for a 42-yard gain. On the next play, Shaw threw to Alshon Jeffery in the end zone for a 20-yard scoring pass. The pass to Anderson was nothing more than a short dump off, and the pass to Jeffery was in the mold of "throw it near him and Jeffery will catch it," but both were plays Stephen Garcia had not been making this season. The early success certainly helped Shaw's confidence at the beginning of a very successful day.

The Gamecocks open the playbook

South Carolina led only 7-3 after the first quarter, so on its first possession of the second, Steve Spurrier went to a couple of new pages in the playbook. The Gamecocks used two new formations on the drive: a wildcat with Marcus Lattimore taking the snap, and the old Emory and Henry formation Spurrier has used in the past (in this formation the offensive tackles split out wide, leaving only three linemen on the ball). South Carolina drove 55 yards in seven plays primarily using these formations, and Spurrier would go back to these plays throughout the game with a good deal of success, including Ellington's 61-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run out of the wildcat.

Kentucky's trick play in the third quarter fails

Kentucky trialed 20-3 at halftime, but got the ball to start the third quarter. The Wildcats desperately needed to do something on offense if they were to get back in the game. On third-and-two from its own 31, Kentucky went for it all. Quarterback Morgan Newton handed off to wide receiver Matt Roark, and then slipped into the secondary. Roark threw back to Newton, who was wide open. However, the pass was late and floated slowly to Newton, allowing C.C. Whitlock and Reginald Bowens time to recover and break up the pass. If Roark's throw had been on time, Newton would have had the first down and a lot more. Instead, Kentucky punted and the rout was on.

South Carolina runs up the score

Spurrier had a reputation for running up the score while at Florida, but he has had few chances to do the same at South Carolina. Saturday he had a chance, and he made the most of it. The next-to-last touchdown, a pass from Andrew Clifford to D.L. Moore, could be defended as getting young players game experience. The last touchdown was blatant running up the score, given that the Gamecocks did not even need to snap the ball again for the game to end, and Spurrier certainly enjoyed it.

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