In a game that would’ve kept the Wildcats from a three-game losing streak and an overall losing record after five games, Kentucky almost looked worse tonight than they did last weekend against Mississippi State.
The defense was sluggish from the first snap and the Gamecocks had the offenses number all night long. South Carolina ran the ball down the Wildcats throat the entire game. The Gamecocks drove down the field and ran it in for an opening drive touchdown and scored again in one play to start the second half after a Wildcat turnover.
Ryan Hilinski had a good game, but their run game dominated as both Tavien Feaster and Rico Dowdle rushed for 100+ yards and finished with three touchdowns combined.
QB Sawyer Smith just could not get it going as he went 11/32 for 90 yards total. The run game struggled even worse with only 45 yards for the night before two explosive plays from Christopher Rodriguez Jr. and Lynn Bowden Jr., which led to the Wildcats single score of the night.
Bowden received, rushed, and even threw two passes at QB throughout the game as Mark Stoops tried everything to get something going offensively. Smith’s health is once again a concern, but the entire roster needs to look in the mirror leading into their first of two bye weeks this season.
”Really disappointed in the game and the way we played. Gotta give a lot of credit to South Carolina; they flat beat us, outcoached us and played better. Their backs were against the wall and came in here and played a very good game – very tough, very physical – and beat us in all areas.
“The bye is coming at a good time for us; our team is beat up pretty good. We need to hit the reset button and get some guys healthy and get some of these mistakes that we’re making corrected. There’s a lot of things we can get fixed and will, and we gotta continue to have a great bye week and get some young guys cleaned up and more detailed and better in all areas along with trying to get healthy.
“Rough day offensively. Sawyer [Smith] has given us everything he can. He’s banged up. He’s banged up, and that’s the bottom line. We don’t need to make excuses, there are no excuses. We all need to do a better job, and we gotta get some guys healthy.
“Maybe we should’ve went to Lynn [Bowden Jr.] maybe earlier; I know everybody’s going to ask that, I don’t know, it’s worth a shot because we did struggle moving the football. Sawyer has to heal up, and hopefully he will; and we gotta get some things checked out on him here during this bye.”
On if there is a backup quarterback other than Lynn Bowden Jr. …
”We have confidence in Walker [Wood]. I mean, Walker’s had a lot of injuries, and it’s going to be tough on any option at that point. I love Walker; he gives it everything he has, and he’s gone through two shoulder surgeries himself.”
On potentially taking Sawyer Smith out of the game early…
”Probably could’ve taken him out earlier; I don’t know. At that point he took another hit and that was when we definitely had to get him out, down 24, can’t compound things.
On getting away from the running game tonight…
”They really were tough in taking that away. We didn’t have enough plays in the beginning of the game, in the first half and that comes from not converting on third downs and not being efficient in the run game. So no, we weren’t good enough at running the ball.
“Again, defensively, even though they had some good stops and settled in and did some good things, they were controlling the game. They did to us what we did to them last time we were here. They controlled the game by running it efficiently, keeping the clock and beat us at what we do.
“We do have to get back to the running game and being physical and having a physical presence and taking the pressure off of them. But it comes from playing good as a team, the defensee getting some stops early and letting us play ahead. Again, tough start in here. Seems like every time we come in here we get off to a bad start, and this one we weren’t able to overcome.”
On being in “desperation mode”and bouncing back…
”You know, just getting back in the film room and getting back to work. We’re not going to panic. We believe in each other and believe in our coaching staff and each player. We know we’re capable of climbing out of this hole, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
On quarterback Sawyer Smith’s performance and him not being 100% …
”He’s just a tough kid, and we believe in Sawyer. It’s going to be important to get him healthy, but, you know, he’s out there giving everything he’s got.”
On the bye week coming at a good time…
”We’ve got a lot of guys, a lot of nagging injuries, a lot of stuff that a week will help. That’s going to be beneficial for us, especially getting into the film room and getting to see and correct things that we’ve made mistakes on.”
Christopher Rodriguez Jr.
On earning a bigger role after the final drive…
”I came out and played my game. That’s up to Coach. If Coach feels like I earned a role, then that’s his decision.”
On finding something positive in his performance …
”Like Coach tells me, when your number’s called, be ready. We lost obviously; I wasn’t really impressed with the outcome but win as a team, lose as a team.
Lynn Bowden Jr.
On why things weren’t working tonight…
”I really don’t know. I guess they had a good game plan; it was a good team. We just got to execute better.”
On comfort playing quarterback…
”I’m a fighter. I’m just fighting for my team until the clocks says 0:00. Whatever I’ve got to do, that’s what I’m going to do.”