It was a battle under the lights in Columbia between two teams desperate for a win. With a brutal schedule still ahead of them, the Gamecocks needed a victory in order to keep their bowl hopes alive. They did just that dominating the game as Kentucky falls 24-7 to South Carolina. What went wrong? We’ll start with the offense.
Kentucky Falls 24-7 To South Carolina
Putting It Mildly The Offense Struggled
With Terry Wilson lost for the season, the Cats turned to Troy transfer Sawyer Smith. While he played pretty well in the loss to Florida , the last two weeks have not been good. After suffering a shoulder injury against Mississippi State there was some question if Smith would even play. He gutted it out against the South Carolina defense but it was obvious he was nowhere near 100 percent.
For the game, Smith completed 11 of 32 passes for a meager 90 yards and an interception. However, the run game was no better, mustering only 115 yards with half of it coming on the last series. How bad did it get for Mark Stoops’ squad? They were zero for 10 on third down before Smith finally completed a pass to Ahmad Wagner. That first down broke an incredible display of ineptitude for the Wildcat offense.
And that ends a stretch of 1-26 on 3rd down for UK.
— Corey Price (@coreyp08) September 29, 2019
Especially when the game got out of hand, leaving Smith out there was a bad decision. When the Cats did try running Lynn Bowden out of the Wildcat they finally had some success. On Kentucky’s last possession with the junior at the helm they managed to drive 84 yards for a touchdown. Bowden completed a pass and also ran for 26 yards. In addition Chris Rodriguez had a 44 yard run then took it the last two to keep the Cats from being shut out. Unfortunately with two weeks before the next game the coaching staff left themselves open to a lot of questions and criticism.
Stoops on Sawyer Smith: "We probably could have taken him out earlier." Uhhhhhh… Ya think?
— Round Daddy (@JStreble82) September 29, 2019
For the game, Kentucky only had nine first downs and 212 yards of total offense. However 84 of those came on the final drive. They also finished two for 15 on third down and had two turnovers. That won’t get it done in the SEC.
South Carolina’s Running Game Was Key
Last week the Kentucky defense allowed 241 yards on the ground to Mississippi State. In addition both Kylin Hill and Garrett Shrader went over 100. This week the Cats allowed 247 yards on the ground and two more players broke the century mark.
Tavien Feaster ran for 107 yards and two scores while Rico Dowdle ran for 102 yards and found the end zone once. Quarterback Ryan Hilinski completed 15 of 27 passes for 140 yards. With the strong running game he only needed to be solid and not turn the ball over and he did just that.
Putting It In Perspective
With the late drive and touchdown Kentucky avoided being shut out for the first time since 2012. True Blue Fans probably don’t want to remember but that was the 40-0 debacle at the hands of Vanderbilt in front of tens of fans at Commonwealth Stadium. The next day Joker Phillips was fired. The Cats lose three straight for the first time since the end of the 2017 season. In addition this is the first three game conference losing streak since 2015.
On the other side of the ball South Carolina improves to 2-3 in a game they had to win. With games left against Clemson, Georgia and Florida this was a must win to keep any bowl hopes alive. In addition the Gamecocks got their first win against Kentucky since 2013. A win by the Cats would have been only the second time in their SEC history defeating a team six straight years. Kentucky beat Vanderbilt six straight from 1976-1981.
The Cats are off next week and quite frankly it couldn’t come at a better time. Hopefully for the Big Blue Nation the week off gives the team time to get healthy and back on the right track. On October 12th they return home to Kroger Field to host Arkansas. The Razorbacks also sit at 2-3 though they narrowly lost 31-27 to Texas A&M Saturday.
It’s going to be a special night in Lexington as the school will honor the legacy of former quarterback Jared Lorenzen. The beloved former Cat died in July after complications from heart and kidney problems. Again Kentucky falls 24-7 at South Carolina dropping them to 2-3 on the season and 0-3 in the conference. Call in shows and social media are certainly going to be interesting the next two weeks. Thanks for checking out this and all the great content here at Last Word On College Football.