Cats Hit The Road For The First Time
Following three straight home games, the Kentucky football team travels to South Carolina Saturday night for a 7:00 pm kick-off on ESPN2. Mark Stoops‘ club looks to shake off a bad performance in a 28-23 win over Chattanooga of the Southern Conference last week. Columbia is a place where the Cats have had some recent success. We’ll look at that along with what to watch for with both teams with our Kentucky At South Carolina Preview.
Limiting The Miscues
A season ago Kentucky was one of the top teams in the country in turnover margin. However, in 2021 it’s a polar opposite as the Cats have eight turnovers and forced only two. If you are scoring at home that ranks them 127th in the country out of 130 teams. Against some of the teams in the early part of the schedule, you can get away with that. As the SEC schedule gets more difficult it’s a recipe for disaster. Against Chattanooga quarterback Will Levis threw for 254 yards and two touchdowns. However he also had two interceptions and lost a fumble.
Kentucky’s offensive coordinator Liam Coen said after the game he took the Mocs for granted. He added they wanted to give Chris Rodriguez and the running game a break after a very physical game against Missouri. In fact, UK only ran for 103 yards, that’s the lowest amount since gaining 59 against Alabama last year. A week after rushing for 207 and three touchdowns Rodriguez only gained 46 versus an FCS school.
Basically, Kentucky needs to get back to their brand of football which is ball control and keeping the other team off the field. They will have their work cut out for them as South Carolina ranks 27th in the country in total defense allowing 289 yards per game. In addition, one other thing to watch is Kentucky’s trouble with special teams, especially the punting game. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Beamer go all out to either block a kick or a trick play to get points on the board.
As we continue our Kentucky Wildcats Versus South Carolina Gamecocks preview let’s look at the home team.
Scouting The Gamecocks
Shane Beamer’s squad comes into Saturday sporting a 2-1 record. They began the season beating Eastern Illinois 46-0 and then 20-17 at East Carolina. However, they lost at Georgia 40-13 last week and of course, there’s no shame in losing down in Athens. There will be a different quarterback under center for the Gamecocks as Luke Doty is the starter. Zeb Noland started the first three games but was injured in the loss to the Bulldogs. Against Georgia Doty threw for 156 yards and a score. In addition, he ran for another 15 yards.
The Gamecock backfield features talented backs led by Zaquandre White who has 167 yards and a touchdown. Right behind him are Juju McDowell and Marshawn Lloyd who have rushed for 117 and 95 yards respectively. One of the biggest surprises in the early season is the struggles of Kevin Harris. After finishing second in the SEC in 2020 with 1,138 yards on the ground the junior only had 55 in 2021. When USC goes to the air the player Kentucky has to watch is Josh Vann. The senior leads the way with 10 receptions for 271 yards and three touchdowns. That puts him second in the league in yards per catch right behind Jacob Copeland.
On the other side of the ball defensive back, Jaylan Foster leads the defense. Not only does Foster lead the team in tackles with 15 and in interceptions with three, which leads the nation. Right behind him is Brad Johnson who is second on the team in tackles with 13 and sacks with two. On the season Carolina has forced five turnovers including two picks returned for touchdowns. Look for the Gamecocks to pressure Levis into making mistakes.
Like we do every week let’s check out the rivalry between the two schools as we continue our Kentucky Wildcats Versus South Carolina Gamecocks Preview.
The history of the Kentucky-South Carolina series is one of the streaks. All-time the Gamecocks lead the Wildcats 18-13 with one tie. The two schools first met in 1937 with UK winning 27-7. When USC started playing in the SEC in 1992 Kentucky won five of the first eight. From there Carolina rolled off ten straight from 2000-2009. The Cats beat a Steve Spurrier coached team for the first time ever in 2010 only to see Carolina win three more.
However, the tide turned in 2014 when a 45-38 victory. It not only marked the first signature win for Stoops but began a streak that’s seen the Cats win six of the last seven. Last year Kentucky rolled over Carolina 41-18. UK rolled up 492 yards of total offense as they raced to a 34-3 lead. Chris Rodriguez led the way with 139 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Furthermore, the Cats have won two of the last three in Columbia. Going back to 2015 they ended a 22 game SEC road losing streak with a 26-22 win over Spurrier. A few weeks later the “Ol Ball Coach” retired. In 2017 Kentucky once again knocked off Carolina 23-13. However, two years ago a depleted Kentucky team lost 24-7 ending a five-game winning streak in the series for UK.
Who Wins On Saturday?
Kentucky plays their first road game in front of what should be a full house since 2019. Playing in Columbia can only mean one thing, lots of “Sandstorm” blaring through the speakers at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Cats have been preparing the best they can for Saturday.
Sandstorm and bird noises have been blaring on repeat at Kentucky practice today. pic.twitter.com/thSjgXsn7N
— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) September 21, 2021
As mentioned earlier in order to win Kentucky has to control the ball and limit turnovers. Do that and Stoops’ Troops should pull out the win. All week the Cats said they put the Chattanooga game behind them and the Big Blue Nation will see a different team. Most of the games in this series have been decided by ten points or less and that’s what happens on Saturday at the Cats win again in Columbia.
Thanks for checking out our Kentucky At South Carolina Preview here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll be back after the game with a wrap-up.