STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- Alshon Jeffrey caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Connor Shaw with 3:50 left in the fourth quarter and No. 15 South Carolina rallied to beat Mississippi State 14-12 on Saturday.
In his third career start, Shaw struggled for much of the afternoon. But the South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) sophomore threw a perfect pass to Jeffrey, who stretched his 6-foot-4 frame over two Mississippi State (3-4, 0-4) defenders to give the Gamecocks a 14-10 lead.
Shaw completed 20 of 28 passes for 155 yards, one touchdown and
two interceptions. South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore came into the game averaging an SEC-best 129.8 rushing yards per game, but managed only 39 yards and a touchdown against the hard-hitting Bulldogs.
He left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent leg injury that could make the Gamecocks' victory a lot less sweet. Mississippi State was driving late in the game, but Tyler Russell's pass was intercepted by D.J. Swearinger with 1:45 remaining.
From that point, the Gamecocks were able to run out the clock, with Shaw running out the back of the end zone on the final play for a Mississippi State safety. The low scoring was caused by a mix of dominating defense and missed opportunities on offense.
South Carolina and Mississippi State started inexperienced
quarterbacks, and it showed for much of the afternoon. The Gamecocks played their first game without senior Stephen Garcia, whose suspension-riddled career ended abruptly after coach Steve Spurrier dismissed him from the team earlier in the week.
Shaw replaced Garcia last week before the dismissal, throwing four
touchdowns against Kentucky in a dominating win. Mississippi State's defense proved a much more difficult challenge. But he came up big when it mattered, throwing the ball where only Jeffrey could catch it.
The Gamecocks' leading receiver had been quiet up until that point and finished with five catches for 24 yards. South Carolina has won six straight against the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen falls to 2-11 against ranked
teams in his three-year tenure. Mississippi State sophomore Tyler Russell earned his first start at quarterback, replacing struggling senior Chris Relf.
The sophomore threw a 19-yard touchdown to Chris Smith late in the
first quarter to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead. He had some good
moments, but struggled with his accuracy against a swarming South
Carolina defense, completing 11 of 29 passes for 165 yards, one
touchdown and two interceptions.
He led the Bulldogs down the field late in the fourth quarter, but his pass was picked off by Swearinger, a safety who flew across the field. Swearinger led South Carolina with 12 tackles.
Mississippi State outgained South Carolina 296-289. Vick Ballard
rushed for 67 yards on 20 carries. LaDarius Perkins added 46
rushing yards on nine carries.