Connor Shaw delivers many touchdowns, few yards in 34-16 victory
After quarterback Connor Shaw gained national praise last week for his heroic performance in South Carolina’s double-overtime win over Missouri, the senior picked up right where he left off in Saturday’s 34-16 triumph over Mississippi State.
The week after earning SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors, Shaw threw for four touchdowns on just ten completions in a convincing victory over the Bulldogs. But despite finding the end zone so frequently, the senior only collected 147 yards through the air.
“He played okay,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “He wasn’t as sharp, maybe, as some of his games this year.”
Though the Gamecock signal caller’s yardage numbers were pedestrian, his four touchdown passes in a single game matched a career high, and in the process he moved up to second on South Carolina’s all-time leader board for the stat.
But falling in line with the humble persona Shaw has become known for, he was quick to turn the attention away from his personal accomplishments.
“I don’t keep up too much with career records or anything like that,” Shaw said. “But it was good to have four touchdowns on the day. I think we were four-for-four in the red zone, so I just tried to distribute the ball to our players and make plays for us today.”
While Shaw’s touchdown numbers were staggering and the score would indicate a relatively easy day at the office for the South Carolina offense, inconsistency characteristic of the unit plagued the Gamecocks in the first half.
After amassing 134 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter, the Gamecock offense only managed to tally 13 yards and a field goal in the second.
“Obviously our offense sputtered,” Spurrier said. “It was not a good day for our offense. I think we need to go back and get a little bit more physical in practice. It seemed like we were a little too soft.”
Uncharacteristic of a contest that saw South Carolina win by 18 points, Mississippi State outmatched the Gamecocks in almost every offensive category, including the Bulldogs outgaining South Carolina 385-307 in total offense.
The Gamecocks found third downs particularly troubling Saturday, converting just one of 11 opportunities.
However, Mississippi State did not make South Carolina pay for its offensive ineptitude, as the Gamecock defense bolstered the struggling offense by forcing five turnovers on the day.
“I didn’t have my best game today,” Shaw said. “We were only one-of-11 on third down conversions, and the only way you win with that is when your defense forces (five) turnovers. So I thought our defense played really well.”
With Mississippi State threatening just before the half, only a touchdown separated the two sides. But poor clock management by the Bulldogs was the saving grace that kept South Carolina’s lead at seven heading into the locker room.
However, despite the hotly contested first half, the second half of play would see the Gamecocks pull away from MSU. Shaw delivered two of his four total scores in the half and South Carolina would have second-team players in the game by midway through the fourth quarter, including a cameo by junior quarterback Dylan Thompson with just over five minutes to go in the contest.
While South Carolina plays out the rest of the season with its eyes on the SEC Championship game in Atlanta, all the Gamecocks can do is take care of business on their front and hope for outside help from the likes of Missouri and Georgia. And while Saturday’s Homecoming victory over Mississippi State was far from pretty offensively, South Carolina is one step closer to that goal.
“Overall, we weren’t that good,” Spurrier said. “But yet, we somehow got 34 points with some turnover help and we were able to win the game.”