COLUMBIA — Connor Shaw’s throwing shoulder is just fine.
South Carolina’s killer instinct? Not so much.
Shaw threw for 262 yards and accounted for two touchdowns to lead the No. 13 Gamecocks to a 35-28 victory over Kentucky on Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium.
But like the previous two wins, which saw the Gamecocks squander most of their big leads late in the game, the defense couldn’t stifle a Wildcats attack that had only scored 20 points in its last two contests.
“We win. We win,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “That’s who we are. Can’t slow anyone down much when the fourth quarter gets rolling.”
Shaw and the Gamecocks’ offense helped preserve the 14th consecutive home victory for South Carolina (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference). For Kentucky (1-4, 0-2), it was another loss as new coach Mark Stoops tries to rebuild the Wildcats program.
The Gamecocks were without All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who sat out the game with bruised ribs.
Spurrier said Clowney informed him that he wouldn’t be able to play just before the game.
“He said his ribs hurt, he couldn’t run,” Spurrier said.
Shaw suffered a sprained right shoulder early in last week’s road win at Central Florida, and he was initially listed as out for two to three weeks. But by Tuesday his status had changed for the better.
“This is my senior year, and I didn’t want to miss another game,” Shaw said.
All Shaw did was lead the Gamecocks to scores on all four possessions he led in the first half. On the fourth play of the game Shaw lofted a perfect pass to Damiere Byrd for a 62-yard touchdown.
Tailback Mike Davis took over from there, adding rushing touchdowns of 22 yards and one yard as South Carolina seized control early. Placekicker Elliott Fry added a 40-yard field goal as the Gamecocks took a 24-7 lead at the half.
After Fry added another field goal, Kentucky scored early in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 27-14. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, Bruce Ellington fumbled and Kentucky recovered. Whitlow found Ryan Timmons on a 14-yard touchdown pass to pull within 27-21.
The Gamecocks responded with an 89-yard drive that Shaw capped with a 2-yard run for his first rushing score of the year. Shaw then found Nick Jones on the 2-point conversion try to push South Carolina’s lead to 14.
But Kentucky refused to go away, and Whitlow scored to keep the Wildcats’ hopes alive.
Shaw and the Gamecocks responded by running out the final four minutes.