Gamecocks overcome slow start to wear down Wildcats

After a sluggish first half, No. 6 South Carolina smothered Kentucky in the second half and pulled away to win 38-17 on Saturday night in an SEC game.

The Gamecocks (5-0), who trailed 17-7 at halftime, broke away with a dominant third quarter. South Carolina rushed for 101 yards in the third after heading into halftime with 26 yards on the ground. Quarterback Connor Shaw’s efficiency and running back Marcus Lattimore’s power were too much for Kentucky’s young defense to handle.

Shaw was 5 of 5 for 54 yards and a touchdown pass in the third quarter. Lattimore’s effect may have had more to do with the frequency of his carries than anything else. After five carries for 12 yards in the first quarter, he had eight rushes for 49 yards in the third quarter alone.

Shaw finished 15 of 18 for 148 yards and two touchdowns; Lattimore’s final total was 120 yards and two touchdowns on 23 rushes.

Things could have been worse for the Gamecocks in the first half. With 1:08 left until halftime, coach Steve Spurrier tried to convert a fourth-and-1 from the South Carolina 34-yard line. The snap out of the shotgun formation sailed well over Shaw’s head and the Wildcats recovered at the 10-yard line with a minute to score.

A fumble on a third-and-goal from the 10 kept Kentucky from scoring. The Wildcats recovered the fumble but could not get another snap off before time expired.

Kentucky (1-4) took an early 3-0 lead thanks to an impressive 16-play drive led by freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow. The Wildcats started at their own 1 after a goal-line stand and Whitlow — who came in the game on Kentucky’s second offensive play after starter Maxwell Smith sprained an ankle — took the Cats down the field with a 94-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard Craig McIntosh field goal.

On the drive, Kentucky has four plays of 12 or more yards, including a 24-yard Raymond Sanders rush on a third-and-11.

South Carolina’s only score of the first half came on a drive early in the second quarter. The six-play, 64-yard drive showed Shaw’s full complement of skills. He went 4 of 4 on the drive for 52 yards and had one rush for 11 yards. His 3-yard touchdown pass to Ace Sanders gave the Gamecocks a 7-3 lead.

Kentucky put together back-to-back impressive touchdown drives near the end of the second quarter, and a 10-yard Raymond Sanders run gave the Wildcats the 17-7 lead they carried into halftime.

But Shaw’s perfect third quarter was too much for the Wildcats to overcome. Whitlow, pressing to spark Kentucky’s offense, threw two fourth-quarter interceptions.

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