Shaw a game-time decision as Gamecocks host ECU

South Carolina fans held their collective breath when quarterback Connor Shaw walked off the field holding his bruised throwing shoulder in the second quarter of a season-opening win over Vanderbilt.

Gamecocks fans might be holding it right up until kickoff of Saturday’s home contest against East Carolina. Coach Steve Spurrier said Shaw, who returned in the second half of the 17-13 win, will be a game-time decision even if cleared by team doctors.

With or without Shaw, the ninth-ranked Gamecocks will look to improve upon a sluggish performance against Vanderbilt. South Carolina managed only 272 total yards, including just 67 through the air.

Whether it’s Shaw or Dylan Thompson under center, the Gamecocks are likely to lean on star running back Marcus Lattimore, who earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors after rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns in his return from ACL surgery.

Lattimore had 112 yards and three touchdowns against the Pirates last season. The Gamecocks also will count on another strong performance from their experienced defense, which held Vandy to 276 total yards, including 62 rushing yards on 36 attempts.

It will face an East Carolina team that put up 390 yards – but gave up 419 – in a 35-13 win over Appalachian State in its opener. The Pirates showed some offensive prowess in the second half, and they should be even better now that quarterback Rio Johnson has a start under his belt. Johnson threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran for a score in his first start. The defense left something to be desired, though, especially against the pass.

The teams are meeting for the 17th time and the second straight year. South Carolina holds an 11-5 advantage in the series, including an 8-4 mark at home and a 56-37 win last year in Charlotte, N.C.  East Carolina has won the last three meetings in Columbia and four of the last five, most recently a 21-3 victory in 1999. That was before the arrival of Spurrier, who is 44-0 all-time against teams outside the BCS automatic qualifying conferences, including an 18-0 mark at South Carolina.

The Gamecocks have won five straight games overall and 12 straight regular-season games against non-conference opponents, dating to 2008. The Pirates have lost seven of their last eight non-conference road games.

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