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.