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Shaw sparks South Carolina over Mississippi State

The SportsXchange

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Connor Shaw continues to impress even on days that he is not at his best. The senior quarterback for South Carolina tied his career-high four touchdown passes to lead the No. 14 Gamecocks to a 34-16 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Shaw had scoring passes of 14, 43, 6 and 4 yards. It was the second time in Shaw's career that he's thrown for four touchdowns, the other time coming against Kentucky on Oct. 8, 2011. He only completed 10 passes on the day and South Carolina had its lowest offensive output of the season with 307 total yards.

Shaw's performance comes a week after he came off the bench to lead the Gamecocks to a 27-24 double overtime victory over then No. 5 Missouri. South Carolina trailed 17-0 when Shaw entered the game in the second half and he led them to 17 fourth-quarter points to force overtime. He was not expected to play in that game after he suffered an injured left knee the week before in a loss at Tennessee. This past week, Shaw didn't practice until Wednesday as he battled a virus that kept him away from the team facility for three days. But he showed up Saturday in the most crucial times.

"He wasn't as sharp as some of his games this year but he felt fine," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "We had some bad plays too. Maybe it was just a game they just had a lot of good calls on and maybe we didn't because we looked pretty poor a lot today, especially on third downs."

Shaw said he felt fine but was disappointed on the offensive performance despite his four touchdowns. He moved into second place in school history with 50 career touchdown passes.

"I didn't have my best game today," Shaw said. "I don't keep up too much with career records but it was nice to have four touchdowns on the day."

The victory extends the Gamecocks' home winning streak to 15 games, which tied a school record and is currently second-best in the nation behind Michigan's 19-game home streak. It also was the seventh straight victory in the series with the Bulldogs. It also keeps the Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2) in the running for the SEC East title.

The loss snapped Mississippi State's four-game winning streak against SEC East opponents. Coach Dan Mullen had a 9-3 record against teams from the East before turnovers cost the Bulldogs against the Gamecocks. They came into the game with just six turnovers on the season but almost matched that total Saturday.

The South Carolina defense forced five turnovers -- three Dak Prescott interceptions and a fumble. The South Carolina offense turned the miscues into 20 points and they took control with a 17-point third quarter.

"We had a lot more yards, a lot more plays," Mullen said. "We were better on third down than they were, better on fourth down but if you're going to turn the ball over five times -- go a minus-5 in turnover ratio on the road in the SEC -- your percentage to win is about 1 percent. You can't do those things and expect to win on the road. Besides that, there is a lot of good things that we did."

Leading by seven at the half, the Gamecocks scored on their first three second-half possessions. It started with on the second play after South Carolina attempted a squib kick to open the second half. Prescott fumbled near midfield and Sharrod Golightly returned it 24 yards to give South Carolina possession at the MSU 23-yard line. Four plays later, Shaw connected with Damiere Byrd on a 6-yard slant route for the score.

"I have to do a better job of protecting the ball," Prescott said. "I need to hit the hole like I'm supposed to."

Mike Davis set up the next score with a 43-yard run and 30-yard reception before Shaw connected with Jerell Adams on a 4-yard touchdown pass.

Chaz Elder set up the final score with a interception. Elliott Fry connected on a 37-yard field goal for the Gamecocks.

"Turnovers were crucial," Spurrier said. "I think we scored on all of them (four), usually touchdowns but we did have a couple of field goals we had to kick."

Mississippi State (4-4, 1-3) led briefly when they went on top 7-0 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Dak Prescott in the first quarter. The Bulldogs forced a three-and-out on South Carolina's first series and covered 60 yards in nine plays to take the early lead.

The Gamecocks roared back by scoring on three of four possessions. Davis ran for 32 yards on the first scoring drive before Shaw connected with Shaq Roland on a 14-yard touchdown pass.

Skai Moore set up South Carolina's next score when he intercepted a Prescott pass at the MSU 46-yard line. Three plays later, Shaw found Roland again on a 43-yard scoring strike.

South Carolina forced its second turnover on the next Bulldogs possession when T.J. Holloman picked off Prescott pass and returned it 12 yards to the Mississippi State 25-yard line. The Gamecocks were unable to move the ball and settled for a career-long 44-yard field by Fry.

NOTES: Davis became the eighth running back in South Carolina history go over a 1,000 yards in a season. The sophomore now has 1,058 yards after his seventh 100-yard effort of the year. He finished with 128 yards on 15 carries. He is the first back to reach that mark since Marcus Lattimore did in 2010. ... Roland recorded his first two touchdowns since the season-opener against North Carolina. The former Mr. Football in South Carolina, Roland had a three-game suspension earlier this season for a violation of team rules. He had only one catch since his return -- and nine for the season -- but he turned his only two catches into scores. ... Prescott came in tied for third in the SEC with 10 touchdowns and he added two more on runs of 1 and 11 yards. The sophomore is tops among quarterbacks in touchdown runs. He finished with 78 yards rushing and 235 passing. He now has accounted for 1,961 yards of total offense on the season.
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