A few days ago, I compared South Carolina to the 2014 Missouri Tigers, which always seemed to find a way to win close games en route to the SEC Championship Game.

It was Kentucky, however, that followed that script (run the ball well and play solid defense in key moments) in a 26-22 win over South Carolina on Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium.


1. South Carolina is fortunate this game wasn’t over at halftime: If Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles hadn’t thrown an ill-advised interception out of his own end zone and gift wrapped the Gamecocks’ first touchdown, it could have been a 24-0 halftime lead for the Wildcats.
2. It’s possible to kick too many field goals: Former East Carolina coach Steve Logan once said that “field goals in the red zone aren’t plus three, they’re minus four.” The Gamecocks’ first three drives after halftime were all promising, but all ended in field goals — instead of touchdowns.
3. Who’s the quarterback?: Early reports indicate that Connor Mitch is gone for the season with a shoulder injury. Former walk-on Perry Orth was good in stretches, but threw a critical interception on South Carolina’s final drive. It will be interesting to see if true freshman Lorenzo Nunez gets his chance under center in the weeks ahead.
4. A late-arriving defense: In the first half, Kentucky running backs had the freedom of Williams-Brice Stadium, piling up more than 150 yards on the ground. After halftime, the Wildcats managed only 51 more rushing yards against an inspired Gamecocks defense and didn’t pick up a first down until well into the fourth quarter.
5. Where do they go?: At the end of Week 2, South Carolina’s season is at a crossroads. A loss at Georgia next week would likely end any hopes of an SEC East title. With a new quarterback — and perhaps a crisis of confidence — it will be interesting to see how the Gamecocks look between the hedges.


Offense: C — A lackluster first half gave way to a better effort in the final two quarters. As previously mentioned, though, too many drives ended with field goals. Three drives inside the 15 to open the half netted only nine points. A successful two-point conversion would have tied the score in the fourth quarter. Instead, the Wildcats scooped up Pharoh Cooper’s fumble and tallied two points on the other end for the game’s final margin.

Defense: B- — In the first half, I’d give them a D-minus. The second half was far better. The Gamecocks defense forced four straight three-and-outs, allowing the offense to get back into the game.

Special Teams: B — Elliott Fry missed a field goal from 42 yards out, but that was really the only blemish from this unit on the night.

Coaching: C- — The first half was poor by any standard, but the halftime adjustments were very good. A little more creativity — or perhaps a few more handoffs — in the red zone might have produced another touchdown, making the need for a better two-point conversion play a moot point.

Overall: C — This has to feel like a game that got away for the Gamecocks. They did a lot of good things, but not quite enough at the right times to win.


The offensive game plan was likely heading for the trash can at halftime anyway, but Mitch’s injury late in the second quarter forced an on-the-fly adjustment. Orth was 13-for-20 with 179 yards and a score, but had a back-breaking pick on the team’s final drive. As previously noted, the defensive halftime adjustments were perfect.


  • RB Brandon Wilds: He sounded off after the game about the need for more touches in the red zone, and his numbers — 16 carries for 106 yards — suggest he may have a point.
  • LB Jonathan Walton: The junior linebacker made 10 solo tackles and 11 stops overall for the Gamecocks.
  • LB Skai Moore: Moore made eight tackles, and picked up his third interception of the season.


Mitch is likely out for the year with a shoulder separation and CB Chris Lammons missed he game with a knee injury.