COLUMBIA, S.C. – Saturday’s night’s dominating win over Georgia was special to a lot of Gamecocks, but no one was more pleased than Connor Shaw.
South Carolina’s junior quarterback grew up in Flowery Branch, just 40 miles from Athens, but left the state without an offer from the state university. Saturday he played like a man on a mission.
Shaw played a near-perfect game in the Gamecocks’ zone-read-based offense. He ran for 78 yards on 14 carries and scored on a 7-yard run and passed for another 162 yards and two scores. He completed only six passes, but they averaged 27 yards a pop, with a long of 62 yards.
“We were all hyped up for this game,” said Shaw, who has completed 41 of 49 passes in the least three games. “It was the greatest atmosphere I’ve ever played in. I saw a tweet where Kirk Herbstreit said the Horseshoe was one of the greatest [pregames] he’s ever been a part of, so we’re grateful to the fans.”
Said Georgia coach Mark Richt: “He played an outstanding game. . . . We did nothing to make it tough on him.”
Shaw improved to 13-1 as the Gamecocks’ starting quarterback. He succeeded the oft-troubled Stephen Garcia after he was dismissed early last season.
“Connor is sensational running the ball. That’s his game,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “He can throw, too. But running Marcus (Lattimore) and running him, we can hit some big [passing] plays. That was key for us.”
There was nothing flukish about the Gamecocks’ production on Saturday. They took their first two drives of the game and drove 76 and 69 yards to score. Twice Shaw ran for first downs on third down.
“We had a great week of preparation and we came out of the gate rolling,” Shaw said. “We found a groove. I think it’s important in a game like this to come out and find your comfort level. We just rolled with it.”
There is plausible route for Georgia back to Atlanta. The Bulldogs need South Carolina to lose their next two games, which happen to be on the road at LSU and Florida, respectively. Georgia would then need to win out, which would mean beating the Gators as well.
“We’re definitely not going to give up on that thought,” Richt said.
Georgia won 10 straight last season after losing to South Carolina to play in the SEC Championship game.
Georgia used a 12-play, 75-yard drive that consumed 4:22 late in the fourth quarter to avoid its first shutout since losing to Alabama 31-0 in 1995. Sophomore tailback Ken Malcome scored on a 3-yard run and accounted for 45 of the yards on five carries.
“It feels a little better to get 7 on the board,” Richt said. “I don’t think anybody wants to get shutout. That hurts. It’s embarrassing. People start looking at record books for the last time you got shut out. . . . It wasn’t like it made it feel like we had a good night or anything like that.”
The first-half shutout was Georgia’s first since LSU held them scoreless in the first two quarters in 2009. The Bulldogs trailed 6-0 in that one and lost 20-13.
Here’s a few positives coming from the Bulldogs’ side on Saturday:
Etc. . . .
Georgia saw its regular-season winning streak end at 15 games. Its last regular-season loss was to South Carolina 45-42 last year. . . . South Carolina’s 10-game winning streak is the longest in school history. The Gamecocks’ 6-0 start is their first since 1988. . . . Georgia opponents have now scored 43 points off of 10 turnovers this season. . . . The Bulldogs were last in the SEC in net punting before Ace Sanders’ 70-yard return for a touchdown in the first quarter. It was the second TD punt return against Georgia since LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu had one in the SEC Championship game last December.
COMPLETE COVERAGE OF GEORGIA-SOUTH CAROLINA GAME