Rapid Reaction: Kentucky overcomes mistakes to knock off South Carolina, improves to 4-0
In a series dominated by streaks, Kentucky has extended its current winning ways one more year.
The Wildcats got off to a solid start, and then South Carolina roared back with a big early drive in the second half, the Wildcats escaped despite 4 fumbles, including 2 they lost, and an interception. The Gamecocks couldn’t convert those opportunities into points. The Gamecocks were 3-for-12 on third down conversions, and 0-for-3 on fourth down.
Kentucky put it out of reach thanks to a late field goal after the Gamecocks failed to convert on the third turnover of the game by UK. Matt Ruffolo connected on 3 field goals of 43, 21 and 27 yards.
Kentucky came into Saturday having won 6 of the past 7 meetings in the series, and the Wildcats pulled off a methodical victory, 16-10, while they overcame several mistakes.
UK’s win moved the Wildcats to 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since 2018 and just the second time since 1977. It also have coach Mark Stoops 26 SEC victories at UK, which broke the school record of 25 league wins by Fran Curci.
After Kentucky’s opening touchdown, both offenses sputtered. Kentucky opened the scoring with a 12-play, 75-yard TD drive to start the game, but the next offensive drives for both teams combined for 7 punts, 1 interception and 1 turnover on downs.
South Carolina’s Jaylan Foster continued his early-season interception prowess, with his fourth pick in as many games, as the SEC’s leader continued to impress. The other bright spot for South Carolina was the emergence of Jalen Brooks, who made several notable plays, including a third-quarter touchdown.
Midway through the second quarter, Kevin Harris was stopped on fourth down and one as the South Carolina offense continued its early struggles and couldn’t get over the hump offensively.
The South Carolina defense in the first half held Kentucky to 60 passing yards, but the Gamecocks themselves had 80 yards of offense, including 34 rushing.
The UK offensive struggles were a departure from the first 2 games, which saw the Wildcats collect more than 500 total yards in each of the first 2 games of the season for the first time in school history and ranks 27th nationally.
Kentucky kept South Carolina in check into halftime as the Wildcats’ defense continued a strong start to the season. Kentucky did not allow an opponent to score more than 28 points in its first 3 contests.
Kentucky and South Carolina had several reasons to be excited for their offenses on Saturday in a packed Williams-Brice Stadium. Will Levis made his first road start in an SEC environment for Kentucky, and South Carolina’s Luke Doty made his first start of the season at quarterback.
Kentucky’s Kavosiey Smoke opened the scoring with a 15-yard touchdown run with 8:27 left in the first quarter. But since then, neither team could get on track offensively.
Smoke capped a 12-play, 75-yard TD drive to start the game, but then the teams struggled, and combined for 7 punts, 1 interception and 1 turnover on downs on the next several possessions.
Doty was 6-for-9 passing for 46 yards, but the Gamecocks only got 4 first downs, and were 1-for-6 on third down.
Kentucky got a late field goal as the Wildcats mustered a scoring drive to close out the half, 10-0.