Kentucky-South Carolina Preview
By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has been anything but pleased with the Gamecocks' offensive performance this season.
While he's tried to be patient with quarterback Stephen Garcia, the fifth-year senior's time has run out.
Sophomore Connor Shaw will replace Garcia under center Saturday when No. 18 South Carolina hosts SEC rival Kentucky.
After they labored to a 4-0 start, the Gamecocks' inability to consistently move the ball finally caught up to them during last Saturday's 16-13 loss to Auburn.
One week after throwing a career-worst four interceptions, Garcia completed just 9 of 23 passes for 160 yards with a touchdown, getting picked off twice more. South Carolina (4-1, 2-1) managed only 289 yards and 13 first downs - both season lows.
"We were living through a lot of errors Stephen would make," Spurrier said. "We were hoping and believing those errors would go away. We've coached Stephen to play better, but he plays similarly about every game."
Shaw, meanwhile, began the season as the starter but was benched in favor of Garcia after struggling in the opener. He's hoping to make the most of his second chance.
"It's an opportunity I'm willing to take advantage of," Shaw said. "I think I'm ready to play."
South Carolina is ninth in the conference with 174.6 passing yards per game. Its completion percentage (49.6) ranks second from the bottom - just ahead of the Wildcats - and its nine interceptions, all by Garcia, are the SEC's most.
"As most everyone knows, our quarterback play has not been as good as we hoped, and we've got to do something. Maybe some other positions we're looking at also," Spurrier said.
"I think (Shaw) is 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."
Marcus Lattimore, who leads the SEC with 677 rushing yards, should be able to take some of the pressure off Shaw. The versatile back, however, has averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in the last two games after recording 6.1 over the first three.
"We just have to keep getting better. We have to get better in practice," Lattimore said. "The defense is doing what they need to do. It's just the offense. We have to pick it up.
"We just need to get ready for Kentucky now because they're an Eastern Division team. It's going to be a tough game. They beat us last year."
The Gamecocks had taken 10 straight meetings in this series before being outscored 21-0 in the second half of a 31-28 defeat at Kentucky on Oct. 16. Garcia threw for a career-high 382 yards along with two touchdowns and two interceptions while Lattimore compiled 212 yards from scrimmage and three TDs.
The Wildcats were carried by quarterback Mike Hartline in that game, but they've found things difficult with Hartline gone.
After suffering a 48-10 defeat at the hands of then-No. 15 Florida on Sept. 24, Kentucky (2-3, 0-2) fell 35-7 at No. 1 LSU on Saturday. Coach Joker Phillips knows his team will have its hands full again at South Carolina.
"(This is) a big challenge for us, but another opportunity for us to see how much we've improved, if we've improved," Phillips said. "I think we did improve last week defensively. We did not play especially well on offense, which is an area we have to get better at."
In Baton Rouge, Morgan Newton completed 6 of 20 passes for a season-low 57 yards with a touchdown. Freshman Josh Clemons needed a season-high 21 carries to get 69 yards and was held out of the end zone for the third consecutive game.
Kentucky ranks last in the SEC in both yards from scrimmage per game (255.6) and touchdowns (nine).
Since beating then-No. 17 Louisville 22-17 on Sept. 1, 2002, the Wildcats have dropped 18 straight road games against Top 25 opponents by an average of 20.9 points.
Updated October 4, 2011