Notebook: Shaw gets his shot

After giving fifth-year senior quarterback Stephen Garcia every opportunity to prove he could play at the level to which Gamecock fans have become accustomed, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier announced following Monday's practice that sophomore Connor Shaw would get the start in Saturday's Southeastern Conference home game against Kentucky.

Spurrier had been steadfast in his loyalty to Garcia since inserting him into the lineup as a reserve in USC's opening encounter against East Carolina. But, with his play deteriorating in the Gamecocks' last two encounters, he finally made the move.

"This is his game, it's his opportunity to go play, and we think he's ready," Spurrier said of Shaw. "We're going to find out Saturday. Connor had a good practice (Monday night) and, as most everyone knows, our quarterback play has not been as good as we hoped. We've got to do something. Maybe some other positions we're looking at also. We're looking forward to the game against Kentucky.

"I just ask all the Gamecock fans to give Connor your support the same way you have all the others players here. I think he's ready to play well. It wasn't that hard a call. At some point we have to do something to shake up this offense, and this is the first step. We'll see how it goes. It's Connor's game. Unless he gets hurt, this is his game."

Shaw struggled in his only other start, which came in the season opener against East Carolina, but didn't get great play around him, either. He was relieved by Garcia, in a preplanned move, who came in with the team down by two touchdowns and brought them back to victory. He has played little since.

Through five games, Garcia had failed to regain his mojo, completing only 61-of-118 passes for 844 yards and one touchdown. He has thrown nine interceptions, including six in the last two weeks. He also rushed 34 times for 171 yards and three scores.

Shaw has only attempted 11 passes, completing four for 29 yards. He has also rushed nine times for 40 yards. Following Monday's practice, he appeared ready to get back on the field.

"It's an opportunity I'm willing to take advantage of," said Shaw. "I think I'm ready to play. I'm excited, and we'll see how it goes this Saturday. I feel confident and I feel like I'm ready to play."

The move appears to come at a good time, as Kentucky has struggled defensively, which could give Shaw an opportunity to ease back into competition.

NOTES, QUOTES

--DE Melvin Ingram was named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive week after picking up 11 tackles, which included 4.5 for loss and 3.5 quarterback sacks. He also recorded an interception deep in USC territory. The senior has been the Gamecocks' breakout player this season, as he has been honored three times by the SEC, once as Special Teams Player of the Week. He is tied for third on the team in tackles with 26. He has a team-leading 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks to go with two interceptions.

--CB C.C. Whitlock has played well in all but one game this season. He is finally beginning to get attention following a two-interception performance against Auburn. He has given the Gamecocks stability at the cornerback slot opposite All-SEC performer Stephon Gilmore. His solid play is imperative, as teams will continue to test him.

--DE Devin Taylor has strung together three consecutive solid games after getting off to a slow start this season. The All-SEC performer has stepped up his game, and the defense has rebounded with his improvement, as the line has proven to be one of the best in the league during that span.

--Kentucky broke a 10-game USC winning streak with a 31-28 victory last season. It was the first time USC coach Steve Spurrier had lost to the Wildcats.

SERIES HISTORY: South Carolina leads 14-7-1 (last meeting, 2010, 31-28 Kentucky)

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The offense has yet to have what South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier would term a good performance. What will happen this week when the Gamecocks host Kentucky is anyone's guess, considering the team will take the field with sophomore QB Connor Shaw at the helm for only the second time. Regardless of who is under the center, the Gamecocks must find a way to return to getting the football to sophomore RB Marcus Lattimore. Due to the Stephen Garcia's inability to get anything going through the air, Auburn stacked the box with the intent of stopping the league's top back. He ran the ball only 17 times in the contest, as the Gamecocks somewhat gave up on attempting to run the football. They will attempt to re-establish the ground game against Kentucky.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: For the third consecutive week, the defense displayed improvement in its journey to become the dominant unit predicted in the preseason. Particularly impressive has been the line, led by senior Melvin Ingram. The least-publicized member of a line featuring All-SEC performer Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney, the top high school player in America last season, Ingram has out-shined both. He leads the team with 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Despite the solid play, the Gamecocks allowed Auburn to score the game-winning touchdown with the clock winding down.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Lost confidence? Yeah, he didn't play as well as we'd hoped. Some things happened in that game. We've already hashed that out. Connor had an excellent practice tonight, but he's got to go do it out on the game field. We all know that. Practice is just preparation. He had an excellent practice tonight, and hopefully he can take it over there." -- USC coach Steve Spurrier on Connor Shaw's opening-game start against East Carolina.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK's GAME: Kentucky at South Carolina, Oct. 8 -- The Gamecocks have dominated the series. Kentucky broke an 11-game USC winning streak a year ago with a 31-28 come-from-behind victory. In that game, Gamecocks RB Marcus Lattimore was unable to play in the second half due to an ankle injury after having 212 yards of total offense and scoring three touchdowns in the first two quarters. USC needs a convincing win to get its season back on track following an upset loss to Auburn.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Run Marcus Lattimore. The Gamecocks have gotten away from their biggest offensive weapon in their last two games. For the offense to be successive, Lattimore must lead the way. That will be more important this week because sophomore Connor Shaw is taking over at quarterback, and the less pressure he faces, the better. Defensively, USC has played well for three consecutive weeks, but has yet to put together the dominating performance it seeks.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

QB Connor Shaw -- South Carolina found itself quickly down by 14 points to East Carolina in Shaw's only other start this season, when he fumbled twice. USC coach Steve Spurrier inserted Stephen Garcia in the second quarter in that game, and the fifth-year senior led the comeback to an easy victory. Connor has seen little playing time since that point. Spurrier has promised Connor will not be replaced unless he gets injured, and the sophomore has to find a way to put the memories of his first start behind him.

WR Alshon Jeffery -- The junior All-American finally made one of his signature catches on a 50-yard touchdown against Auburn. Due to the inaccuracy of senior QB Stephen Garcia, he has not had the type of season statistically that he had the last two campaigns. He will be looking to quickly form chemistry with sophomore Connor Shaw, the new starting QB.

LT Mike Matulis -- The freshman started in place of Kyle Nunn, who missed the game with a back injury. In the second quarter Rokevious Watkins moved to LT with redshirt freshman Cody Gibson entering the game at RT. The duo struggled against Auburn. If Nunn is unable to go against Kentucky, both players will have to find a way to step up their play.

ROSTER REPORT

--LT Kyle Nunn was held out against Auburn with a bulging disc in his back that forced numbness in his foot. The decision was not made until an hour before the game. The same will probably happen this week, as the only decision that must be made is how much pain he can play with. There is no concern about worsening the injury.

--WR Jason Barnes was held out of Monday's practice with a strained hamstring. He status for Saturday will be determined later in the week.

-- DE Melvin Ingram is day-to-day and may not play this weekend after straining his foot against Auburn.

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