Rapid Reaction: Kentucky 5-0, tops South Carolina yet again
If Kentucky keeps playing like this, the Wildcats will have to move beyond the “no respect” motivational tactics that have helped sustain them. For the third time this season, the Wildcats won an SEC game in which they were a Vegas underdog; this time 24-10 on Saturday over the visiting South Carolina Gamecocks.
Kentucky was widely expected to show signs of an emotional hangover after last week’s 28-7 victory over then-No. 14 Mississippi State and a first 2-0 SEC start since 1977. But South Carolina wound up reeling after a three-touchdown barrage in the second quarter gave the Wildcats a 21-point halftime advantage.
Kentucky forced two first-half turnovers. The first, Rico Dowdle’s fumble, set up Miles Butler’s 29-yard field goal. South Carolina answered with a 13-play, 72-yard drive which ended in Parker White’s tying 29-yard field goal with 5:07 to play in the first quarter.
Then came Kentucky’s knockout punch. Kentucky went 75 yards in 11 plays, culminating in Terry Wilson’s 1-yard scoring run seconds into the second quarter. Kentucky outgained the Gamecocks in that quarter, 171-59. Later in the second quarter, sophomore running back Asim Rose had a 24-yard touchdown run and Benny Snell entered the scoring column on a 4-yard plunge.
Snell surpassed 3,000 career rushing yards late in the first half and passed Rafael Little to move into third on Kentucky’s career rushing list. Snell’s first half touchdown was the 40th of his career, extending his school record.
Kentucky sustained a major loss in the third quarter when starting middle linebacker Kash Daniel was ejected on a questionable targeting penalty.
South Carolina struggled offensively and defensively, with QB Jake Bentley held to 9 passing yards in the first half. The Gamecocks had some success running the ball, as they rotated Dowdle, Mon Denson and A.J. Turner throughout. In the middle of the third quarter, South Carolina finally found the end zone with Deebo Samuel hauling in a 58-yard pass from Bentley over Kentucky’s Lonnie Johnson.
Kentucky (5-0, 3-0 SEC) travels to Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1) next week for the Wildcats’ first matchup with the Aggies since 1953, shortly before Bear Bryant left Lexington to coach in College Station.
South Carolina (2-2, 1-2) will next host Missouri (3-1, 1-1), which is coming off of a bye week. Both have lost to Georgia so this game will be essential for either program to hang close to the pack in the East.