COLUMBIA, S.C. (University of South Carolina) - The Gamecock defense posted five turnovers to help South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC) claim a 34-16 victory over Mississippi State (4-4, 1-3 SEC) in front of 82,111 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
With three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, South Carolina's defense topped its four turnovers from the UCF game earlier this year. It helped the Gamecock offense to score 18 of its points on the day. The group also tallied six pass breakups and four quarterback hurries while making seven tackles for loss.
Sophomore tailback Mike Davis posted another 154 all-purpose yards, including 128 rushing yards, in the win. It's his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the year, the third most by a Gamecock in history. He also has over 1,000 rushing yards this season, compiling the 10th season at South Carolina with that total.
Senior quarterback Connor Shaw tied a career high with four touchdowns, throwing for 147 yards in a 10-for-20 outing. He's now second in passing touchdowns and in wins for a starting quarterback at South Carolina. He also ties the South Carolina career record for touchdowns responsible, evening Steve Taneyhill's 64. Sophomore wide receiver Shaq Roland hauled in two of those TD passes and led the Gamecocks with 57 receiving yards.
The Gamecocks took advantage of two interceptions in the first half en route to a 17-7 lead. After Mississippi State scored on its first drive, with sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott capping the drive with a 1-yard run, the Gamecocks answered. A surgical five-play, 71-yard drive ended when Shaw found Roland for a 14-yard score, tying the game at 7-7.
After freshman linebacker Skai Moore made a diving interception of a tipped MSU pass, the Gamecocks used just three plays to take the lead. Sophomore tailback Shon Carson set up the score with his 24-yard scamper on a screen pass, while Shaw hit Roland again for the 43-yard scoring strike. The Gamecocks made another interception on a tipped ball in the second quarter when redshirt freshman linebacker T.J. Holloman corralled the ball that hit the Bulldog offensive tackle and returned it 12 yards to the MSU 25. The Gamecocks settled for a 44-yard field goal from freshman Elliott Fry, the longest of his career.
Mississippi State drew within a touchdown on Evan Sobiesk's first career field goal, a 38-yarder, late in the second quarter. The Bulldogs held small advantages in total offense during the first half.
The Gamecock defense started the second half by producing its third turnover of the game. On the second play of the half, senior defensive end Chaz Sutton forced the Bulldog quarterback to fumble, and junior spur Sharrod Golightly returned it 24 yards to the Mississippi State 23. Four plays later, Shaw hit junior wide receiver Damiere Byrd from six yards out for the score. The Gamecocks made it 31-10 when Shaw hit sophomore tight end Jerell Adams with the fade from the four. Davis had the big play on the drive, breaking away for a 43-yard run before catching a 30-yard pass to set up Adams' score.
The Bulldogs tallied a touchdown in the fourth when Prescott ran in his second score, this one an 11-yard carry. The pass on the two-point try failed, keeping the Gamecocks ahead 34-16. The next-to-last Mississippi State possession ended when junior cornerback Victor Hampton stripped the ball from the Bulldog receiver with 2:44 to go.
Mississippi State's Prescott went 25-for-40 for 209 yards but tossed the three interceptions. He also led the Bulldogs in rushing with 78 yards and two touchdowns.
Roland had his first two-TD catch day at South Carolina, while Adams caught his first score of the year. Hampton led the Gamecocks with eight tackles, forced and recovered a fumble and set a new personal best with three pass breakups. Moore and Elder both made their first interceptions of their career.
The win, the 15th-consecutive victory at home, tied the best streak in history, set from 1978-80. It's the 38th win in a four-year period, matching the school record set by last year's senior class.
South Carolina takes next week off before hosting Florida on Nov. 16. Game time and television coverage will be announced next week at GamecocksOnline.com.
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