COLUMBIA, S.C. (University of South Carolina) - Another strong first-half offensive performance by No. 13/12 South Carolina (4-1, 2-1 SEC) led the Gamecocks to a 35-28 victory over Kentucky (1-4, 0-2 SEC) in front of 82,313 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.
Sophomore tailback Mike Davis posted his fourth 100-yard game of the season, gaining 106 on 21 carries to go with two touchdowns to top the Gamecocks. He also had 54 receiving yards on three catches. Senior quarterback Connor Shaw added 312 yards of total offense in his 21st career win as the starting quarterback. Junior wide receiver Damiere Byrd posted career bests in catches (5) and yards (94) in the win.
The Gamecocks posted a strong first half, holding a 24-7 lead at the break. On the fourth play of the game, Shaw hit Byrd for a 62-yard touchdown, putting South Carolina ahead 7-0. Davis scored on two different runs, first from 22 yards out before diving in for his second from a yard away, which handed the Gamecocks a 21-0 lead. Both of the Davis' touchdowns capped four-plus minute drives of 10 and nine plays, respectively. Fifty-six of the 80 yards on the first drive came from Davis, as he had three carries and two catches.
Kentucky got on the board after the second Davis run with a 14-play, 75-yard drive. Raymond Sanders darted in from two yards out to make it 21-7. Just before the half ended, Gamecock freshman Elliott Fry kicked his then-career longest field goal of 40 yards. South Carolina set up that Fry kick in part by a catch and lateral from junior tight end Rory Anderson to Davis to get to the Kentucky 30. With the 24-7 lead at the break, South Carolina's offense dominated in the stats, doubling the Wildcats in first downs (14-7) and nearly tripling them in yards (297-100).
To start the third quarter, Kentucky drove to its own 49 after a fourth-down conversion. The next two plays, Gamecock junior defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles came up big, hitting Raymond Sanders behind the line for a four-yard loss before sacking Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow for a 10-yard setback. The Wildcats were forced to punt, and the Gamecocks responded with an 11-play, 53-yard drive that almost took six minutes off the clock. Fry added another field goal, a 41-yarder that just cleared the crossbar, to make it a 20-point Gamecock lead with just under 20 minutes to play.
Kentucky followed the Fry field goal with a 12-play drive, capped by Demarco Robinson's stretch of the ball across the goal line on replay on a four-yard reception from Whitlow. The quarterback accounted for all but five of the team's 75 yards on the drive, going 7-for-8 for 58 yards in the air to go with his 11 yards rushing. The Wildcats capitalized on a fourth-quarter Gamecock miscue, fumbling the kickoff after a nice return. Whitlow found Ryan Timmons in the end zone for a 14-yard scoring pass, drawing the visitors within a score, 27-21.
South Carolina responded with a seven-play, 89-yard drive to push the lead back to two scores. Shaw ran for a 31-yard gain before hitting Davis to advance 18 yards to the Kentucky 33. After a Shaw seven-yard gain, freshman Pharoh Cooper took the direct snap and gained 23 yards to get to the UK 3. Two plays later, Shaw ran it in from two yards out. He found junior Nick Jones on the two-point conversion to make it a 14-point Gamecock lead at 35-21.
The Wildcats answered back with an eight-play, 81-yard drive in just over four minutes, with Whitlow succeeding on his second sneak try from a yard out to bring Kentucky within seven points again. Shamier Jeffery recovered the onside kick try by the Wildcats with 3:59 to go. Two Davis first-down runs let South Carolina kneel three times for the victory.
Three Gamecocks had six tackles, with Quarles joining redshirt freshman T.J. Holloman and junior defensive tackle J.T. Surratt in leading the team. Both Holloman and Surratt set career bests. South Carolina played without junior Jadeveon Clowney, who sat out the game with bruised ribs.
Whitlow led Kentucky's offense with 17-for-24 for 178 yards and two touchdowns in the air and 69 rushing yards and a TD. Nate Willis and Avery Williamson both had nine tackles for the Wildcats.
South Carolina begins a three-game road trip at 12:21 p.m. EDT next Saturday against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The SEC TV syndicated network is televising the game from Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
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