On Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats football team entered a thunderous Williams-Brice Stadium, greeted by approximately 80,000 South Carolina fans hungry for revenge.
Despite Kentucky’s consistent standing at the bottom of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) East, the Wildcats held a 3-0 win streak over the Gamecocks entering the game.
After this year’s contest, that streak expanded to four.
An interception by Kentucky cornerback Derrick Baity secured Kentucky’s 23-13 victory over South Carolina. Here are four takeaways:
Another shaky start for Kentucky
First, Kentucky’s defense gave up a touchdown 13 seconds into the first quarter. That’s right, THIRTEEN seconds. The Wildcats couldn’t stop a 68-yard reception by South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel.
Then, Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson threw an interception, and later, South Carolina forced and recovered a fumble.
This all happened within the first four minutes. It looked like the Wildcats were in for a long, long game.
Wildcats’ offense emerges
Luckily, Kentucky shook its nerves. If you told me after South Carolina’s first touchdown that Kentucky would bounce back to grab a 14-6 lead at halftime, I’d laugh at you.
But after the Gamecocks’ opening 68-yard touchdown, the Wildcats’ offense took off. Until grabbing its first score, it logged 181 yards compared to the home team’s 26.
18 yard gain on 3rd down by Sihiem King. pic.twitter.com/bDKTeRRG08— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 17, 2017
To take the 7-6 lead in the first quarter, Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. snuck into the end zone through a fittingly named play...
Benny Snell scores TD on 5-yard run out of -- yes -- the wildcat.— John Clay (@johnclayiv) September 17, 2017
Touchdown Kentucky. Benny Snell powers into the endzone. pic.twitter.com/XxX6rAyhpO— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 17, 2017
Snell scored again in the second, while Austin MacGinnis contributed three field goals.
South Carolina gained late momentum with a fourth-quarter touchdown, its first touchdown since the first seconds of the game. But a 54-yard run by Stephen Johnson on Kentucky’s next drive helped assure position for Austin MacGinnis’s third field goal, stretching the point differential to two possessions.
Lord have mercy. Stephen Johnson is cool as a cucumber. (And he smartly stays inbounds) pic.twitter.com/DBhZeijIjm— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 17, 2017
EIGHTH 3rd down conversion on the night. pic.twitter.com/WHpqD1wnfh— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 17, 2017
Bad day for South Carolina’s kickers
It’s pretty sad when fans boo their own team.
Boos rain down as South Carolina comes up short on a 42-yard field goal. Cats lead 17-6 with 12:22 to play.— Jen Smith (@jenheraldleader) September 17, 2017
One missed extra point and a missed 42-yard field goal by Alexander Woznick. A missed 52-yard field goal by Parker White. This was not a good showing for the Gamecocks’ kickers.
South Carolina should get rid of that 3rd-down rooster sound
OK, this isn’t a real takeaway, but seriously. I’m going to hear that cackle in my sleep tonight.
Obviously, it didn’t faze the winning team. Normally the ‘Cats convert just 34 percent of their third-downs. Against South Carolina, Kentucky converted nine of 16.
HUGE goal line stand by UK.— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 17, 2017
Derrick Baity with the great tackle. pic.twitter.com/5zISMbXEGd
Here’s another number. Before the game, ESPN’s Football Power Index gave the ‘Cats a mere 18 percent chance of winning. Now, they’re 3-0 and at the top of the SEC East.
It was impressive that a team — which suffered three bad plays in front of a packed SEC stadium to open the game — was able to maintain composure and close out the win. Here’s to next week.
Enjoy some highlights of the win:
Here is the final box score:
Kentucky will host Florida — a team that just defeated Tennessee with a last-second, Hail Mary pass to the end zone — Saturday, Sept. 23.