COLUMBIA — No. 8 South Carolina rolled to another victory, despite some uneven play on offense and ongoing injury problems at quarterback.
The Gamecocks (3-0) beat Alabama-Birmingham 49-6 on Saturday night, rolling up 501 yards and scoring 35 points after starting QB Connor Shaw left late in the second quarter after taking a brutal hit to his throwing shoulder at the same spot it was hurt in the season opener against Vanderbilt.
“This was one of the closest 49-6 games I have ever been around,” coach Steve Spurrier said.
It was Spurrier’s 200th college coaching win, but he even shrugged that off. He counts his wins in the NFL and USFL, too.
“I have 47 others, so it sort of blends in,” said Spurrier, who joined Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer, Texas’ Mack Brown and Nevada’s Chris Ault as the only active Division I coaches to reach that mark.
Spurrier didn’t think his quarterbacks made good throws at times and his running game didn’t start to click until late.
“We were fortunate to get what points we could,” Spurrier said. “Seems like we couldn’t get a guy open or hit anybody.”
The Gamecocks said Shaw’s right shoulder was bruised, but after the game Shaw said he was recovering from a slight fracture.
Shaw finished the game completing eight of 14 passes for 107 yards, a touchdown and an interception. But his running, usually a strength, looked tentative. He finished with minus-6 yards rushing.
Shaw said after the game that he got shots and painkillers and the shoulder felt much better.
Sophomore Dylan Thompson took over at quarterback again. He was 5 for 10 for 177 yards and two touchdowns, including a 95-yard touchdown pass to Damiere Byrd.
That put South Carolina up 35-6 midway through the third quarter.
Spurrier said Shaw has played well enough to deserve to start if he is healthy. But he cracked the door open to a possible QB rotation.
“If we need to use two quarterbacks at times, Dylan can make some throws,” Spurrier said.
Along with Shaw, receiver Bruce Ellington left the game early in the third quarter with a sprained shoulder after a diving 43-yard catch. Ellington said he should be ready for next week.
Marcus Lattimore carried the ball 12 times for 85 yards. The all-SEC back hasn’t topped the 100-yard mark in five of his past seven games. But the junior’s 2-yard TD run in the second quarter gave him the school’s record for touchdowns at 34 and tied him for all-time rushing TDs at 31. Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers held both those marks previously.
“I found out like a week ago,” Lattimore said of the records. “It’s a big accomplishment.”
Ellington caught five passes for 98 yards before he left with his injury. Ace Sanders had four receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown and freshman Shaq Roland caught his first TD pass of his career, a 30-yard throw from Thompson in the fourth quarter that put the Gamecocks ahead 42-6.
South Carolina’s defense still hasn’t allowed a touchdown from the red zone. Jadeveon Clowney had two sacks and two other tackles for loss. D.J. Swearinger returned a fumble by UAB quarterback Jonathan Perry 65 yards for South Carolina’s first touchdown. He also had a leaping interception that was negated by a roughing the passer penalty.
“It was exciting to see a big play to change the momentum,” said Lorenzo Ward, who is in his first year as Gamecocks defensive coordinator.
UAB (0-2) gained 267 yards but didn’t get in the end zone. Jonathan Perry completed 17 of 34 passes for 219 yards for the Blazers before he was pulled late in the third quarter. Austin Brown took over and completed all three of his passes for 21 yards.
Jackie Williams caught five passes for 45 yards for UAB, who only rushed for 27 yards.
“The really hung in there and competed with one of the top teams in the country for a long time in the game,” Blazers coach Garrick McGee said. “I think there were some things that went on during the game that got them frustrated. The fact that we couldn’t run the football gave them more opportunities to score.”
By the end of the blowout, Spurrier was putting in his third and fourth string quarterbacks. Adam Yates’ miss on a 36-yard field goal with 3:57 to go in the game kept the Head Ball Coach from celebrating his 200th win by hanging half-a-hundred on only the fifth opponent during his eighth season with the Gamecocks.
Spurrier has now won 58 games at South Carolina. He won 122 at Florida and 20 at Duke.
And this isn’t the first time Spurrier has had to decide about when to play a couple of quarterbacks. Shaw’s shoulder will get plenty of attention this week, but Spurrier isn’t going to lose sleep over it.
“We’ll see how they both feel in practice and go from there,” Spurrier said. “I won’t worry about it a lot. We’ll play whoever we think is the best to go.”