LEXINGTON, Ky. — Despite seeing his consecutive-completion streak end at 20 on the first pass he threw against Kentucky on Saturday night, USC quarterback Connor Shaw didn’t let it keep him from picking up where he left off against Missouri last week.
Shaw led the Gamecocks to another important SEC victory — this one via comeback — by displaying the all-around skills that make him so effective. He completed 15-of-18 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns while adding another 76 yards on the ground with 19 hard-nosed carries.
Most significantly, he did it without feeling any pain from the fracture in his throwing shoulder that he suffered in the first game of the season against Vanderbilt.
“It helps that my injury is not bothering me any more,” Shaw said. “It really wasn’t a factor at all this game. I know I took some good shots in there, but I really didn’t feel a thing. I felt comfortable running.”
He guided the Gamecocks from a 10-point halftime deficit to a 31-point performance in the second half in the 38-17 victory. The 73-yard drive he led to get USC going in the second half was quintessential Shaw. He converted a big third-down play with a 14-yard run and followed it with an 11 yard-run.
Next, he hit receiver Damiere Byrd in stride for a 30-yard touchdown pass to cut Kentucky’s lead to 17-14.
“He’s our leader. That’s the guy that gets us going,” said junior tailback Marcus Lattimore. “He got us going in the locker room. He can do it with his legs, he can do it with his arm. He’s a great player, and he’s going to continue to have a great year.”
The comeback really began in the locker room at halftime, when the players decided they weren’t going to lose to a three-touchdown underdog. Shaw said the energy in the room was just what the Gamecocks needed.
“We tried to get our guys emotionally involved and fired up for our second half,” he said.
The offense was aided by going to an I-formation with Shaw under center and consistently handing the ball off to Lattimore, who gained 108 of his 120 yards in the second half, including a pair of touchdown runs.
Shaw understands the offense becomes much more difficult to stop when both he and Lattimore are making plays.
“I thought we did a great job making halftime adjustments and going out there playing hard,” Shaw said. “We knew what we wanted to do to win — just get back to our bread and butter. That’s what we’ve been doing all last year and earlier this season. We had to get Marcus the ball.”
But Lattimore’s effectiveness goes up when opposing defenses must account for Shaw. His early season injury kept him out of the East Carolina win and limited him in the UAB win, when he aggravated it again. But he bounced back strong in the blowout of Missouri before looking like his usual tough-minded self against the Wildcats.
He wasn’t even feeling any postgame pain despite some hard hits by the Kentucky defense.
“It feels OK right now,” he said. “I’m sure it’s going to be sore tomorrow, but that’s like any other player in the locker room right now. I’ll get back and be ready to go on Monday.”