STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The South Carolina Gamecocks won a Southeastern Conference road game Saturday without Marcus Lattimore helping much. Unfortunately, they might have to do it again.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw led a previously sluggish offense on a game-winning touchdown drive and junior safety D.J. Swearinger intercepted a pass with 1:45 remaining as No. 15 South Carolina squeaked by Mississippi State, 14-12.
Lattimore, the Gamecocks' Heisman Trophy candidate, left Davis Wade Stadium on crutches. Officially, it's a sprained left knee -- suffered while blocking with 8:50 remaining on South Carolina's go-ahead drive. But some of the same players who were gathered around Lattimore on the sideline in prayer seem worried.
"Just telling him to keep his head up," USC defensive end Melvin Ingram said.
"Everybody knows that Marcus is the impact player for this team," Shaw said.
The Gamecocks have a bye week before playing at Tennessee on Oct. 29. Then comes a trip to Arkansas. If Lattimore cannot play, USC coach Steve Spurrier said he probably will do replacement by committee, including Kenny Miles (expected back from a wrist injury), Brandon Wilds (8 yards on 5 carries Saturday) and Bruce Ellington, the do-it-all football and basketball player from Berkeley High School.
"Bruce can run it well," Spurrier said. "We'll look at him running more. We'll look at him at tailback some. He can run inside also."
It was a nice win for South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 SEC) under difficult circumstances, including a spirited effort from disappointing Mississippi State (3-4, 0-4).
Shaw was making his first start in a true road game a few days after fifth-year quarterback Stephen Garcia was kicked off the team.
It didn't go well early.
Shaw threw two first-half interceptions and the Gamecocks trailed, 10-7, after Derek DePasquale's 23-yard field goal with 9:50 left.
But an offense that couldn't block for Lattimore (39 yards on 17 carries) or Shaw (sacked three times) suddenly came together. Ellington ran for 13 yards out of the Wildcat formation and on the next play completed an 8-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery. Twelve plays into a 79-yard drive, Shaw threw a jump ball to Jeffery, who hauled it in for a 4-yard touchdown reception with 3:50 left.
"Connor played a super game," Spurrier said.
Shaw last week in his second college start -- and longest stint -- led South Carolina to a 54-3 rout of Kentucky. But the 311 yards passing and four touchdowns came in the friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium.
"We figured it out on the last drive," Shaw said.
Swearinger came halfway across the field from his free safety spot to halt the Bulldogs' rally hopes, picking off a Tyler Russell pass at the South Carolina 12. Shaw took a deliberate safety on the final play.
"Anyway, we're happy to get the win," Spurrier said, "get out of here, get a little time off and try to regroup before we play Tennessee."