A week ago, the Kentucky defense gave up 345 yards in the first half to New Mexico State and this week gave up nearly 100 yards fewer for the entire game to SEC East foe South Carolina as the defense led the Wildcats to a 17-10 win.
A pair of second half touchdowns for Kentucky sparked a come-from-behind 17-10 victory and in turn gives the Wildcats a win in the three-way race to the bottom of the SEC East between them, the Gamecocks and Vanderbilt.
Kentucky has yet to face the aforementioned Commodores, Mississippi State, Missouri and Austin Peay with all except for Missouri being played in Lexington. With a pair of wins so far, it would still be a large hill to climb, but the potential is there for six wins as all of those teams have had times at which they looked extremely vulnerable.
The spark tonight for Kentucky was provided, unexpectedly, by the Kentucky defense. The same unit that had given up more than 500 yards and 40 points thus far this season yielded only 268 yards to South Carolina’s offense. While the Gamecocks’ passing offense did not amount to much of a threat, the strongest performance was against the South Carolina running game as they were held to 91 yards on 35 carries.
Kentucky’s offense was led by their own rushing game as Boom Williams and Benjamin Snell accounted for 123 and 73 yards respectively and both scored rushing touchdowns in the second half. The Kentucky passing game was not spectacular, but did enough to offer some balance. Stephen Johnson hit 135 passing yards on a mark of 11-for-19 with no touchdowns and a third quarter interception.
3 Things We Learned
1) South Carolina Needs to Find an Identity
Will Muschamp’s downfall at Florida was, as is well documented, due to the inability to find any kind of offensive stability. Thus far, it appears the same thing is happening during his tenure in Columbia. It is probably too early to truly judge anything, but through four games, the offense has not scored 21 points or more in any contest. Whether it’s a lack of difference makers on offense or the offense being hamstrung in creativity by Kurt Roper (which always seemed a curious hire considering Florida’s offense did not improve significantly during its year with Roper at the helm under Muschamp), the offense isn’t working.
2) It Might Get Worse for South Carolina Before It Gets Better
The Gamecocks have five straight home games starting next week with Texas A&M and that could be a rough stretch with Georgia, a Tennessee team which will coming off a bye week, a Missouri team which appears to have found an offense and UMass (who, incidentally, will be facing their third SEC team of the season). After that, roadtrips to Florida and Clemson are still to come—along with a home date against Wofford. Piecing together four more wins out of the rest of the season is tough and will certainly require some upsets.
3) Mark Stoops Needs to be More Involved in the Kentucky Defense
If this is the revival of Kentucky’s defensive unit that is provided by Mark Stoops more heavily involving himself in gameday decisions, it needs to stay that way, as put forth earlier in the week by A Sea of Blue. The defense may not be as stout as it was tonight as it will certainly face more imposing offenses, but something clicked tonight which has not previously.