Gamecock junior completes 20 consecutive passes to close out game
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Junior quarterback Connor Shaw threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns and completed a school-record 20 consecutive passes to finish the game as he led No. 7/8 South Carolina to a 31-10 victory over Missouri on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Shaw’s 20 consecutive completions are tied for the second most in SEC history with Ole Miss’ Kent Austin, who had 20 straight against Tennessee in 1982. Shaw’s completion percentage of 95.2 is also a school record and ranks second in SEC history behind Tee Martin’s (Tennessee) record of 95.8 (23-of-24), which came against South Carolina in 1998.
With the victory, the Gamecocks (4-0, 2-0 SEC) extend their winning streak to eight games dating back to last season, which is the second longest in school history. The win is also South Carolina’s first-ever over Missouri and its 10th straight against SEC Eastern Division opponents. The Tigers fall to 2-2 on the season and 0-2 in SEC play.
The Gamecocks amassed 396 yards of total offense on Saturday, with 252 coming through the air and 144 on the ground. Junior running back Marcus Lattimore rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns, averaging four yards per carry to lead the rushing attack. His first touchdown of the afternoon, a 2-yard run early in the second quarter, moved him past George Rogers (1977-80) and Harold Green (1986-1989) for first all-time in career rushing touchdowns at South Carolina with 32. Shaw added 41 yards on 12 carries.
Lattimore also had a stellar day catching passes out of the backfield, tallying seven receptions for 60 yards. Senior tight end Justice Cunningham added four receptions for 41 yards, and junior receiver Ace Sanders had a 23-yard touchdown reception.
Contributing to the Gamecocks’ dominant performance was their play on special teams. Sanders returned six punts for 106 yards, including a long of 49. Sophomore Bruce Ellington also had one kickoff return, Carolina’s first of the season, for 50 yards.
Defensively, South Carolina held the Tigers to 255 yards of offense (109 rushing, 146 passing). Senior linebacker Quin Smith led the way with a season-high 10 tackles, and DeVonte Holloman and Shaq Wilson contributed seven stops each. Sophomore Jadeveon Clowney added four tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Missouri quarterback James Franklin led the Tigers with 92 yards passing, and running back Kendial Lawrence contributed 67 yards on the ground. Linebacker Will Ebner tallied a game-high 14 tackles to carry the Missouri defense.
Special teams played a key role in South Carolina’s strong finish to the first half. After a scoreless first quarter, Sanders gave Carolina a much-needed spark early in the second quarter with a lengthy punt return as he weaved his way down the field and broke several tackles for a 49-yard gain to the Missouri 4. Two plays later, Lattimore burst into the end zone from 2 yards out, giving the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead with 11:08 left in the half.
The Gamecock defense then forced a Missouri fumble on the ensuing series, and senior defensive end Devin Taylor fell on the ball at the Tiger 37. Shaw took advantage of the excellent field position as he connected with Nick Jones for a 36-yard pass to the Missouri 1, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Lattimore. Adam Yates knocked through the extra point to give the Gamecocks a 14-0 advantage at the 10:14 mark of the second quarter.
The Tigers put together their best possession of the half late in the second quarter, driving 76 yards on 12 plays to the Carolina 4. However, the Gamecock defense did not break as it held the Tigers to a 22-yard field goal by Andrew Baggett with 1:20 remaining.
Special teams came through once again for the Gamecocks on the ensuing kickoff, as Ellington fielded the ball in the end zone and broke loose for a 50-yard return, giving the offense a chance to score before the half. Four plays later, Shaw found Sanders open down the sideline for a 23-yard touchdown pass, giving the Gamecocks a 21-3 lead heading into the locker room.
The Gamecocks put the game out of reach late in the third quarter, going on a 10-play, 47-yard scoring drive. Shaw capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Rory Anderson, giving Carolina a 28-3 cushion.
Shaw remained in the game early in the fourth quarter and completed a 10-yard pass to Damiere Byrd on his final pass attempt of the day.
South Carolina will return to action next Saturday in a SEC matchup against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium. The game will be televised on either ESPN or ESPN2.