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South Carolina runs past Kentucky in second half

The SportsXchange

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore only got five touches in the first half, and the Gamecocks couldn't move the ball against Kentucky.

He wasn't worried.

"I just wait until my number's called," Lattimore said. "I'm coached by Steve Spurrier. Six SEC championships, one national championship. He knows what he's doing."

After a sluggish first half, Spurrier and the No. 6 Gamecocks 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 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. After Lattimore's five carries for 12 yards in the first quarter, he had eight rushes for 49 yards in the third quarter alone.

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

"You're gonna have some ups and downs through the season. Hopefully, it won't cost you a game," Spurrier said. "Not a lot happened at Vanderbilt, really, until about the fourth quarter. We didn't make a first down until the third quarter against Vandy, then finally in the fourth, we made one drive. Overall, we played well in the second half. First half, we weren't very good."

Things could have been worse for the Gamecocks in the first half. With 1:08 left until halftime, 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 quarterback Connor Shaw's head and the Wildcats recovered at the 10 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. After the game, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said initial X-rays on Smith's ankle were negative and that he'd be further evaluated Sunday.

"Encouraging is that Jalen made some big-time throws for us," Phillips said. "Again, he has a chance to extend plays with his feet. He made a few plays for us in the quarterback run game, and he also made a few plays by pulling the ball down and making them pay with his feet. He looked like he had been there. Again, he didn't have the bright eyes that you see in some guys."

South Carolina's only score of the first half came on a drive early in the second quarter. The six-play, 64-yard march showed Shaw's full complement of skills. He went 4 of 4 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 and Lattimore's overpowering presence were too much for the Wildcats to overcome.

"(South Carolina) just made up their mind in the locker room probably at halftime, and said, 'Remember that film we've been watching for four straight weeks? The weakness of the Kentucky defense is just line right up and run it right at them,' " Kentucky defensive coordinator Rick Minter said. "That's kind of what they started doing. We got beaten down a little bit. Our kids are battling their tails off, and we've got to just keep improving. When the day was over, it was 200 yards rushing, 50 percent on third down. Until those issues change, probably the game results aren't going to change a great deal."

Notes: The Gamecocks have now won eight straight games, a streak dating to last season. The school-record winning streak is nine, which started the 1984 season. ... With the win over Kentucky, South Carolina secured its first 5-0 start under Spurrier. He has been the Gamecocks' coach for eight seasons. The team's last 5-0 start was in 2001 under former coach Lou Holtz. ... Kentucky now has an all-time record of 39-185-5 against teams in the Associated Press poll. The Wildcats are 0-3 against ranked teams this season. They previously lost 32-14 at Louisville and 38-0 at Florida. ... Kentucky freshman Daron Blaylock blocked a punt in the first half. It was the first time a Kentucky played had blocked a punt since Danny Trevathan blocked a punt against Georgia on Nov. 8, 2008.
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