Kentucky Gets By South Carolina 16-10

Spread the love

The Defense Saves The Day

After beginning the season with three straight home games Kentucky hit the road for the first time in 2021. Their first trip outside Lexington certainly wasn’t an easy one traveling to South Carolina. With the constant blaring of “Sandstorm” ringing in everyone’s ears, the Cats went in and took care of business. Like most things involving UK it wasn’t easy. However, it goes down as a win as Kentucky gets by South Carolina 16-10.

Turnovers Again The Story

Heading into Saturday night Kentucky was -6 in turnover margin for the year. That ranked them 127th out of 130 teams in college football. If you read our game preview we said in order to win they had to limit the mistakes. Unfortunately, they did not limit mistakes at all. If you look at the stats you’d think Kentucky won easily, however that’s what happens when you don’t hold onto the ball. The Cats outgained the Gamecocks 332- 216, held the ball for 35 minutes, and had 22 first downs to Carolina’s 12. However, it was the miscues that gave USC a chance.

For the game, Kentucky officially had three turnovers, an interception by Will Levis, and two fumbles by Josh Ali. In addition that doesn’t take into account a couple of times Chris Rodriguez put in on the ground but UK got the ball back. If you said Kentucky would be -9 in turnover margin and be 4-0 the Big Blue Nation would say you are crazy. Yet Kentucky stands 4-0 for the second time in the last four years.

The game started off well enough as the Cats took the opening kick and marched 75 yards for a score. Kavosiey Smoke took it the last 15 to put the Cats up 7-0.

From there neither team did much as Kentucky had three straight punts followed by the interception. On the other side of the ball, South Carolina’s first half was three straight punts, turn the ball over on downs, and another punt. A Matt Ruffolo field goal right before the half put UK up 10-0. Speaking of the Wildcats defense if it wasn’t for them there’s no way Kentucky gets by South Carolina 16-10.

The Defense Came Up Huge When Needed

Carolina did come out strong to start the second half taking the opening drive 75 yards for a score. The exact way Kentucky did to start the game. A five-yard pass from  Luke Doty to Jalen Brooks cut the lead to 10-7. However, on the ensuing drive, UK kept the ball for over seven minutes and another field goal by Ruffolo gave the Cats a 13-7 lead.

It was at this point where the defense stood tall for the Cats. Following an Ali fumble, USC took over at the Kentucky 30. However, Shane Beamer’s club went for it on a fourth and five but Doty’s pass was incomplete due in part to some great coverage from the secondary. Then after Ali’s second fumble, the defense held once again on fourth down. The third field goal by Ruffolo gave the Cats a nine-point cushion with four minutes left and the game seemed over.

Of course, long-time Kentucky fans know that no game is ever over. Doty marched the Gamecocks down the field before the Cat defense flexed again and Parker White boomed a 54-yard field goal. Behind a steady dose of Rodriguez and Smoke UK ran the clock out giving Mark Stoops his seventh win in the last eight against Carolina.

For the game, Rodriguez ran for 144 yards on 26 carries while Smoke added 50 more and a touchdown. Furthermore, he went over 1,000 yards rushing for his career at Kentucky.

As mentioned earlier UK held Carolina to only 216 total yards and 58 on the ground, the best the Cats have done in a road game in a long time.

Not only was it a huge road win for Kentucky but another big win for Stoops.

A Big Night For Stoops

With the win Saturday night the UK head coach hit another coaching milestone. He’s now won 26 SEC games while at Kentucky. That puts him one ahead of Fran Curci, who won 25 contests during his nine years in Lexington from 1973-1981.

In addition, Stoops is now 53-50 as head coach of the Wildcats. However, when you take into consideration he was 12-26 two games into his fourth season he’s gone 41-24 since then. One more thing he’s only seven wins behind Bear Bryant for the all-time wins leader.

Looking Ahead

Kentucky now sits at 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the SEC. However, the schedule gets tougher from here on out. It starts next Saturday with a game against Florida at 6:00 pm on ESPN under the lights at Kroger Field. Of course, everyone knows the streak of futility against the Gators. The Cats have lost 33 of the last 34 and haven’t won at home since 1986. Dan Mullen’s squad trailed Tennessee 14-10 in the second quarter but ran off 28 unanswered for a 38-14 win.

On the other side of the ball, the Gamecocks drop to 2-2 overall and o-2 in the SEC. They’ll step out of the conference next week when they host the Troy Trojans.

Again thanks to the defense Kentucky gets by South Carolina 16-10 to go 4-0 on the season. We’ll get you ready for the Florida game and also take a look at the updated bowl projections. Last week we had the Cats playing Boston College in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.