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Gamecocks rebound with dismantling of Kentucky

Oct 9, 2011 - 12:01 AM Columbia, SC (Sports Network) - Connor Shaw returned to the South Carolina lineup and threw for 311 yards with four touchdowns for the 18th-ranked Gamecocks in a 54-3 rout of Kentucky at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Shaw was the starter for South Carolina's season-opener against East Carolina, but was removed in favor of Stephen Garcia, who led the Gamecocks to a come- from-behind win. Garcia struggled in last week's 16-13 loss to Auburn and head coach Steve Spurrier decided to make the switch back to Shaw.

"Connor has been here two years," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said. "He's been practicing. He practiced well this week. He was sharper in practice than he was today. We had a lot of good plays called, and he threw them perfectly. That's the result we got. He missed a few. We have a chance to play better the more he plays."

The sophomore completed 26-of-39 passes and was not intercepted as the Gamecocks (5-1, 3-1 SEC) took advantage of a struggling Kentucky squad. South Carolina rolled up 639 yards of offense, including a 102-yard rushing effort from Marcus Lattimore.

Kentucky (2-4, 0-3) managed just 96 yards and six first downs in its fourth straight setback. The Wildcats have been outscored 137-20 in losses to Florida, LSU and now South Carolina over the last three weeks to start the conference season.

"Ugly is how you can describe it," Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips said of his team's performance. "Especially offensively, (we) had a chance to make a play early in the first half, wide open guy but threw it inside and (they) made an interception. (We have) an offense that can't make plays, can't stay on the field, an offense that turns the ball over six times, numerous times on first down. Which means your defense has to go right back on the field after just getting (off) there."

Morgan Newton was a dismal 4-of-20 passing for 17 yards with an interception in defeat. He was also the Wildcats' leading rusher with 54 yards on 14 carries.

It was the largest margin of victory in the series, eclipsing South Carolina's 42-6 romp in 2001.

Kentucky took advantage of a South Carolina fumble on the opening kickoff and grabbed a quick 3-0 lead on a 28-yard field goal by Craig McIntosh, but Shaw followed by directing a seven-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery just under three minutes later.

The Wildcats tried some trickery late in the first quarter with a halfback pass from Josh Clemons, but Stephon Gilmore came away with an interception at the South Carolina 19. Newton was picked off by Victor Hampton on Kentucky's next series.

South Carolina was unable to convert those turnovers into points, but extended its lead to 13-3 early in the second quarter when Shaw hit Justice Cunningham for an 11-yard score. The extra point attempt was blocked.

Shaw added his third scoring pass of the half on South Carolina's ensuing series, as Jeffery caught pass and raced to the left pylon for a 24-yard touchdown to make it 20-3 with 7:43 left in period.

The Gamecocks didn't muster a threat for the rest of the half, but Shaw threw a 25-yard TD pass to Nick Jones midway through the third quarter and Jay Wooten added field goals of 48 and 42 yards to give South Carolina a 33-3 cushion heading to the fourth.

Bruce Ellington scored on a 61-yard run off a direct snap early in the final period and a Jonathan George fumble led to a seven-yard scoring pass from Andrew Clifford to D.L. Moore. Fourth-string quarterback Dylan Thompson put the finishing touches on the annihilation with an eight-yard touchdown run in the final seconds.

Game Notes

The Gamecocks ran for 288 yards...Jeffery had six receptions for 95 yards. He was one of 10 different South Carolina players with a catch...South Carolina has won 11 of the last 12 meetings. The lone loss in that span came last year in a 31-28 decision at Lexington...The Gamecocks improved to 15-7-1 all-time against Kentucky...The Wildcats have lost six straight in Columbia, last winning at Williams-Brice Stadium in 1999...South Carolina visits Mississippi State next week...Kentucky is idle next weekend and then hosts Jacksonville State on October 22.