Kentucky-South Carolina Preview

Injured South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw is expected to
start when the 13th-ranked Gamecocks face Kentucky on Saturday
night.

Shaw, who injured his shoulder against last Saturday against
UCF, was expected to be out up to three weeks. But Shaw practiced
Monday and coach Steve Spurrier said he watched the QB throw the
ball about 60 yards. He’s progressed strongly throughout the week
and will start when the Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1 SEC) host Kentucky
(1-3, 0-1).

Spurrier had no explanation for Shaw’s quick return other than
maybe the QB’s injury was not as serious as initially believed.

“Our trainer had him out two to three weeks,” Spurrier said.
“You’ll have to ask our trainers how he made such a miraculous
recovery.”

Shaw left the UCF game early, was taken to the locker room and
returned with his right, throwing arm in a sling and ice on what
looked like a badly damaged shoulder. But like several other times
in the senior’s college career, it appears that Shaw will shake off
any pain and get back to work.

He had sustained an injury to the same shoulder in the 2012
season opener at Vanderbilt, yet returned late in the game to lead
a go-ahead touchdown drive in South Carolina’s 17-13 victory.

“I think we all know that he’s the toughest guy a lot of us have
seen,” said Dylan Thompson, Shaw’s backup who was expected to
start the next two games.

Thompson came in led a second-half rally as South Carolina went
from trailing 10-0 to grabbing a 28-10 lead. UCF almost pulled off
a comeback of its own, drawing within a field goal with two
fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Still, the Gamecocks missed Shaw. He is fourth in SEC pass
efficiency and has thrown six touchdowns without an
interception.

Shaw is 20-4 during his career as the Gamecocks’ starter and is
only one of two South Carolina quarterbacks (1970s-era quarterback
Jeff Grantz is the other) to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for
1,000 yards in a career.

Even if Shaw was out, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops knows his
defense will have to stop South Carolina’s run game. Tailback Mike
Davis leads the SEC with 127 yards rushing a game. His six
touchdowns rank second in the league. And the Gamecocks had the SEC
offensive lineman of the week its past two games, center Clayton
Stadnik against Vanderbilt and left guard A.J. Cann against
UCF.

“I think if you just look at us as a program, you know, as a
defensive guy, if you can’t stop power running teams in this league
you got zero chance to win,” Stoops said.

Shaw’s quick progression is a bit of good news for Spurrier
after a troubling few days.

The Gamecocks will be without reserve receiver Shaq Roland for
two more games for what the school said is a suspension for
violating university rules.

No. 2 tailback Brandon Wilds dislocated is elbow against UCF and
is out three-to-four weeks, Spurrier said. Freshman David Williams,
who the team had planned to redshirt, will likely see some action
against Kentucky.

Spurrier was again unhappy about South Carolina surrendering
points late and the Gamecocks needing to recover an onside kick to
hold off UCF. A game earlier, South Carolina led Vanderbilt 28-0
before the Commodores cut the final margin to 35-25.

The coach also wasn’t happy about two of his top defenders in
All-American end Jadeveon Clowney and cornerback Victor Hampton
being critical of the defense as a whole following the UCF win.
Clowney and Hampton didn’t call out individuals, but said the
defense was not the same as a year ago and needed to improve.

Spurrier countered Tuesday that unless anyone played a perfect
game, they should leave the critiques to coaches. Spurrier said he
spoke with the two about that upon returning to campus.

And Spurrier, sounding very serious, said if South Carolina is
holding a two-score lead in the final three minutes or so of the
game, he’d take a knee on offense to drain the clock and prevent
teams mounting comebacks like he’s seen the past two games.

“We all live and learn,” he said.

He might not have to worry about Kentucky mounting a comeback.
The Wildcats have scored 29 points after halftime in four games and
produced nothing over the final three quarters in last Saturday’s
24-7 loss to then-No. 20 Florida, totaling just 173 yards.

Kentucky has totaled 339 yards while being outscored 92-20 in
the past two games in this series. Shaw has picked apart the
Wildcats, completing 71.9 percent of his passes for 459 yards and
six TDs without an interception while also running for 118
yards.