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Kentucky Wins Third Straight Against South Carolina: Recap, Highlights and Notes

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Kentucky Running Back Benny Snell Jr. Celebrates his 1-yard touchdown run during last night’s win over South Carolina.
(AP)

Saturday night marked the third straight year Kentucky has defeated SEC East foe South Carolina. In a rocking atmosphere at Commonwealth Stadium, the Wildcats won a grinder, 17-10. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops is now 3-0 in his tenure at Kentucky against the Gamecocks, 2-0 at home. With the win, Kentucky reaches a 2-2 record.

Following a Kentucky win of the toss, they deferred to the second half and kicked off to South Carolina. With former Wildcat star Wesley Woodyard firing up the defense before the game, Kentucky forced a 2-yard, three and out punt on South Carolina’s first drive.

However, the Wildcat defense soon saw the field again just two plays later after a Kayaune Ross fumble. The hype from Woodyard was still set in, though, as they forced a second consecutive three and out.

The defenses held true for two more drives, until Kentucky’s offense, lead by quarterback Stephen Johnson and running back Stanley “Boom” Williams, made it into scoring territory.

Both offensive studs slowly picked apart the South Carolina defense as they made it the SC 12-yard line for an Austin MacGinnis 30-yard field goal and the game’s first score.

Three drives later into the game, South Carolina finally broke through the Wildcat defense with a 10 play, 80-yard touchdown drive. With Kentucky trailing 7-3, they made a strong push downfield to get in FG range but were unsuccessful and headed into halftime down four.

Just like the defense to start the game, Kentucky’s offense came out in stride to start the second half. After receiving the 65-yard kickoff for a touchback, Johnson and co. took the offense 5 plays and 75 yards to be capped off with a Boom Williams 43-yard touchdown run.

Staying on their hot tear, the Kentucky defense limited the South Carolina offense to short gains and forced consecutive punts. South Carolina jumped in on the defensive efforts, however, and limited Kentucky to -5 yards and a punt to the SC 47-yard line.

The Gamecocks would then move the chains into Kentucky territory for a game-tying field goal. After the kick was good, both teams were locked at 10.

But not for long.

On just the next drive, Kentucky erupted for an 11 play 65 yard scoring drive. Benny Snell Jr., the star of last Saturday’s offensive explosion, had his presence felt on every down of the drive.

Of the 11 plays ran, Snell carried the ball nine times for 50 yards and ended the drive with a 1-yard punch at the goal-line for the go ahead touchdown that won the game.

The Kentucky defense followed the game winning drive with a 5-play punt and then turnover on downs to ice the game.

They allowed just 268 total yards, which was their best outing of the season. They also held South Carolina to just 3-14 on third down and a mere 2.6 yards per carry.

Defensive stars Denzil Ware and Jordan Jones lead the way on defense for the Cats. Ware totaled five tackles and two sacks, while Jones added eight tackles to bring his SEC-leading total to 43 through four games.

On offense, Kentucky outgained the Gamecocks by 83 yards and averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Johnson and co. also won the time of possession, 32:40 to South Carolina’s 27:20.

Though Johnson had an interception and two sacks, he passed 11-19 for 135 yards and a 107 passer rating in his first career start. Boom rushed 15 times for 123 yards and a touchdown, while Snell’s snaps increased in the second half to allow him 16 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown as well.

The 100-yard game was Boom’s second of the season and the ninth of his career. Jeff Badet lead the receiving corps with two catches for 39 yards.

Here are the postgame notes, courtesy of UK Athletics:

Kentucky Team Notes

  • UK’s game captains were senior center Jon Toth, junior wide receiver Jeff Badet, junior linebacker Courtney Love and senior defensive lineman Courtney Miggins.
  • The Kentucky defense held South Carolina to just 10 points in the game, which is a season best for the Wildcats.
  • South Carolina’s 10 points marked its lowest scoring output of the season.
  • It marked the first time that Kentucky has held an opponent to 10 points or less since limiting Vanderbilt to seven points in a 17-7 win in 2014 in Commonwealth Stadium.
  • The Gamecocks had seven drives that went for less than 20 yards in the game.
  • The Wildcats held South Carolina to only two pass plays of 20+ yards and no rushing play longer than 12 yards.
  • Kentucky had a season-high four sacks.
  • Coming into Saturday’s game, Kentucky had four sacks in three games played.
  • The four sacks is the most against an SEC opponent since Nov. 1, 2008 against Mississippi State when UK also had four sacks.
  • The Kentucky defense limited South Carolina to just 16 first downs in the game.
  • The last time Kentucky limited an SEC opponent to 16 first downs or less was 13 last season at Vanderbilt.
  • South Carolina had only 177 passing yards in the game, which is its lowest passing total of the season.
  • The 177 passing yards allowed is the lowest of the season for Kentucky.
  • The Gamecocks had 15 pass completions in the game, which was a season low.
  • Kentucky’s third-down defense was superb in the game, limiting the Gamecocks to 3-of-13 in third-down conversions, which was a season-low third-down conversions for the Gamecocks.
  • Kentucky’s four-point halftime deficit was its largest halftime deficit against an SEC opponent in a game it eventually won since Oct. 6, 2010 against South Carolina when UK trailed by 18 at halftime.
  • Kentucky won Saturday’s game with a -2 turnover margin. That was its worst turnover margin in a win against an SEC opponent since Nov. 14, 1998 against Vanderbilt when UK had a -2 turnover margin as well.

Kentucky Player Notes

  • Junior quarterback Stephen Johnson completed 11-of-19 passes for 135 yards in the game.
  • This was Johnson’s first start at UK.
  • The junior rushed 13 times for 41 yards, however he lost 35 yards due to sacks, rushing for a net of six yards.
  • Johnson needs 23 more receiving yards to tie Steve Johnson for 21st all-time.
  • Junior running back Stanley “Boom” Williams rushed 15 times for 123 yards and one touchdown.
  • The 100-yard rushing game was the second of the season for Williams and the ninth of his career.
  • Williams now has 1,805 career rushing yards, moving past six Wildcats tonight to rank eighth all-time at Kentucky.
  • Williams needs 300 more rushing yards to tie Artose Pinner for seventh all-time at Kentucky.
  • On the season, Williams has rushed a team-high 58 times for 464 yards and is averaging 8.0 yards per carry.
  • Williams is the fifth player in school history to reach 1,700 career rushing yards prior to his senior season. The last player to accomplish that feat was Derrick Locke in 2009.
  • Williams is the fourth player in school history to have two career 100-yard rushing games against South Carolina. Williams is the first to accomplish that feat since Rafael Little.
  • Williams had the fourth-most rushing yards by a UK player against South Carolina in school history. It was the most since Jojo Kemp had 131 against USC in 2014.
  • Williams had the eighth most rushing yards by a UK player in an SEC home opener in school history. It is the most rushing yards in an SEC home opener since Alfred Rawls against Alabama in 1988, who had 132.
  • Williams has 304 rushing yards in the last two games combined, which is the most by a UK player in a two-game span since Rafael Little had 322 combined against Auburn and Vanderbilt in 2005.
  • Junior kicker Austin MacGinnis had five points in the game, including hitting a 30-yard field goal in the first half.
  • MacGinnis now has 184 career points and continues to rank seventh all-time on UK’s career scoring list.
  • MacGinnis needs eight more points to tie Craig Yeast for sixth all-time at Kentucky.
  • True freshman running back Benny Snell rushed a game-high 16 times for 73 yards and one touchdown.
  • Snell’s touchdown came from the Wildcat formation, rushing in for a one-yard, game-winning score in the fourth quarter.
  • On the season, Snell has rushed 33 times for 209 yards and is averaging 6.3 yards per carry.
  • Snell has 209 rushing yards in the last two games combined, which is the most by a true freshman since Chad Scott had 211 against Mississippi State and Vanderbilt in 2000.
  • Junior wide receiver Jeff Badet had two receptions for 39 yards in the game.
  • Badet is averaging 16.2 yards per reception in his career and 30.6 yards per reception this season.
  • Sophomore cornerback Derrick Baity tied a season-high with five tackles in the game, adding two pass breakups and one quarterback hurry.
  • Baity’s two pass breakups tied a career best as he also had two pass breakups last season against Louisville.
  • Sophomore linebacker Jordan Jones led Kentucky in tackles with eight in the game, adding 0.5 tackles for loss and one pass breakup.
  • Jones leads Kentucky this season with 43 tackles.
  • Sophomore defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen had seven tackles in the game, adding a sack and a tackle for loss.
  • Allen has recorded seven or more tackles in two games this season, while he has a tackle for loss in three of Kentucky’s four games played.
  • Sophomore defensive end/linebacker Denzil Ware had five tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss in the game.
  • Ware had the most sacks by a UK player against an SEC opponent since Ridge Wilson against South Carolina in 2011.

Following the win, Kentucky will take their 2-game winning streak to Tuscaloosa as they visit #1 powerhouse Alabama and Nick Saban. The teams are set for kickoff at 7 p.m. on ESPN.