COLUMBIA, S.C. — Bad news, Mississippi State: South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw was out sick a couple of days this week.
The 14th-ranked Gamecocks senior is in the midst of a stellar season – and seems to take his game up another notch when dealing with injuries or illness. Shaw will try to do that again Saturday when South Carolina (6-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) plays at home for the first time in a month when they host Mississippi State (4-3, 1-2).
Shaw has come off the field in two games so far this season with what appeared to be injuries that would cost him games. But both times, Shaw was back the next week leading the Gamecocks to victories.
“At the end of the day, it’s not surprising,” South Carolina quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus said. “He does what he has to do and he’ll be ready to go this week.”
Shaw was told to stay away from the team Monday and Tuesday to make sure the virus he had wouldn’t spread. He returned to practice Wednesday and is expected to start against the Bulldogs.
Five weeks ago, Shaw was helped to the sidelines at UCF and came out of the locker room with ice on his throwing shoulder and a grimace on his face. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was told he’d likely miss two-to-three weeks. But the following Monday, Shaw was throwing passes more than half a football field and threw for 262 yards and a touchdown to beat Kentucky 35-28 in the next game.
Shaw looked even more banged up when he came out of the Tennessee loss on Oct. 19 with a knee injury. While Shaw didn’t start last Saturday night at Missouri, he entered with the Gamecocks trailing 17-0 in the third quarter and led South Carolina to a 27-24 victory in double overtime.
The win over then fifth-ranked Missouri kept South Carolina in the chase for the SEC Eastern Division crown.
“We know there are four teams that still can win” the division, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “We are going to try to do our best to win this one and move on to the next one.”
Here are five things to watch when No. 14 South Carolina plays Mississippi State on Saturday:
GAMECOCK STREAKS: South Carolina has a couple of things trending its way this weekend: it has won six straight against the Bulldogs and 14 straight at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mississippi State had won six of the first eight meetings before the Gamecocks took control the past decade. Another victory Saturday would tie South Carolina’s record home win streak set from 1978-80.
PRESCOTT THE RUNNER: Something’s got to give: Mississippi State sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott has run for 100-plus yards three times this year while the Gamecocks defense has permitted only one player this season to reach 100 yards on the ground (Georgia’s Todd Gurley). South Carolina is sixth in the SEC against the run, giving up just 144 yards rushing per game.
TRENCH BATTLE: A couple of NFL prospects will face each other this week when Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson will try and slow down defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Count on Jackson, the SEC’s reigning offensive lineman of the week, to work with 6-foot-7 tackle Blaine Clausell to slow down Clowney.
QUARLES HEATING UP: While offenses continue to scheme to limit Jadeveon Clowney’s effectiveness, Gamecocks defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles has taken advantage to play the best football of his career. Quarles leads South Carolina with seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He had two of those sacks last week in the win over Missouri.
VERSATILE LEWIS: Mississippi State receiver Jameon Lewis become the first player nationally since 2008 to throw, catch and rush for touchdowns in the same game twice in the same season. In a 62-7 win over Troy on Sept. 21, Lewis threw a 36-yard TD to quarterback Dak Prescott, then caught a 50-yard score and added an 8-yard rushing touchdown. Lewis did it again last week to beat Kentucky 28-22 with a 19-yard TD run, a 17-yard catch from Prescott before returning the favor to his quarterback to provide the winning margin.