Cats Take Down South Carolina, Move to 2-0
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Mark Stoops started the week reminding the Wildcats they hadn’t had a
winning road trip in his three-year tenure. They ended the week
celebrating a 26-22 road victory at South Carolina on Saturday in front of 82,178 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.
It was a tale of two halves, with Kentucky’s offense scoring 24 unanswered first-half points before the Wildcat defense made big play after big play in the second half to secure Kentucky’s first win at South Carolina since 1999.
Heading into halftime with a 24-7 lead, South Carolina (1-1, 0-1 SEC) scored the first 15 points of the second half, including three Elliott Fry field goals and a 33-yard touchdown pass from Perry Orth – who was playing for injured Gamecock quarterback Conner Mitch – to Jerrell Adams, to cut the UK lead to 24-22.
The Gamecocks and head coach Steve Spurrier decided to go for the two-point conversion to try to tie the game before freshman Denzil Ware scooped up a fumble and returned it 98 yards for two points to give UK a 26-22 lead with 8:09 to go in the game.
After a short drive by the UK offense, South Carolina started another drive on a tired Kentucky defense before another freshman made a big play with rookie cornerback Chris Westry earning his first-career interception to put the Wildcats back in the driver’s seat.
The Wildcat offense, who struggled for much of the second half, sealed the victory from there, taking the final 4:32 off the clock, including a key 11-yard quarterback draw by Patrick Towles on third down to drain the Gamecocks of timeouts. Sophomore Stanley “Boom” Williams took over from there with a 25-yard rush to end the game.
The victory for Kentucky broke a 22-game losing streak in road games with the Wildcats last road win coming at Louisville in Sept. 2010. Kentucky’s last SEC road victory was at Georgia in Nov. 2009. UK is now 2-0 on the season and starts conference play with a victory for the first time since defeating Arkansas in 2007 in Fayetteville.
The Gamecocks outgained the Wildcats 417-399, but the Wildcats won the time of possession battle and had more rushing yards, outgaining USC on the ground 207-195. Williams was the star on the ground, earning his third consecutive 100-plus yard game with 107 yards on 14 carries, while junior Jojo Kemp had 13 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown and sophomore Mikel Horton – who missed the second half with an injury – had two rushes for 20 yards and a touchdown.
Towles was in command in the first half through the air, going 21-for-29 overall for 192 yards. The junior signal caller threw an interception on the first drive of the game that set up South Carolina deep in Kentucky territory with Mitch rushing in from one-yard out to give USC a 7-0 lead with 12:03 to play in the first quarter.
That was all the Gamecocks would get offensive in the first half as Kentucky rattled off the next 24 points to end the half, starting with an eight-yard rush from Horton to tie the game 7-7. Kemp got in on the scoring later in the first quarter, completing an eight-play drive with a two-yard rush for a touchdown to give Kentucky a 14-7 lead.
After South Carolina was forced to punt early in the second quarter, Kentucky put together a seven-minute scoring drive that included the Wildcats getting to the USC two-yard line before settling for a Austin MacGinnis 29-yard field goal.
The Gamecocks answered with a strong drive into the Kentucky redzone, but a missed 42-yard field goal by Fry gave possession back to Kentucky with 2:46 to go in the half and Towles and Co. took advantage. After a 20-yard completion to Dorian Baker, Towles connected to Jeff Badet for 43 yards to the USC 11-yard line to set up a 1-yard rush from Towles with 17 seconds to go in the half to give UK a 24-7 lead.
The Wildcats received the opening kickoff the second half, but never could get anything going offensively until the final drive. UK had four straight three-and-out possessions to start the second half but the Kentucky defense didn’t break, keeping the Gamecocks out of the endzone with Fry hitting from 27, 29 and 21 yards after three straight trips to the Kentucky redzone.
South Carolina scored its lone touchdown of the second half when Orth hit Adams with 8:09 to go, but Ware’s fumble recovery on the two-point conversion turned the momentum back to the Wildcats, who sealed the 26-22 victory.
Kentucky will return to action on Saturday, playing host to Florida at 7:30 p.m. ET at Commonwealth Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and broadcast live on the UK Sports Radio Network.