South Carolina had no answer for Kentucky’s run game, as the Cats ran for 291 yards, including 139 from Chris Rodriguez and 101 from A.J. Rose.
On his Senior Day, quarterback Terry Wilson completed 17/26 of his passes for 201 yards while rushing for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Kentucky’s defense kept South Carolina’s offense relatively quiet and forced four turnovers to finish the regular season on a high note.
Despite the loss, the Gamecocks got a strong effort out of their SEC-leading rusher Kevin Harris, who ran for 210 yards and a score.
With the win, UK has now won six of their last seven games against the Gamecocks, including each of their last four in Lexington.
After the game, head coach Mark Stoops and several players recapped the dominant win
Here’s what all four Wildcats had to say about the regular season finale.
MARK STOOPS: Okay. Really grateful. I use that word a lot this week for our team, for our staff, and everybody really trying desperately to finish the correct way. I felt good about our preparation all week. I felt good about their attitude through a difficult, trying season. They really laid it on the line tonight and that’s what I’m most proud of tonight’s game is their mindset was right and their effort was right. We weren’t perfect, but they really played hard and I really respect that from our team and appreciate that from our team and our staff.
So, I think that’s the big word is grateful. Grateful to the seniors, what they have done for us, what they’ve meant to this program for so long. Really, you can’t say enough good things about those guys. They came here when we weren’t going to bowl games every year and taking those for granted and thinking all that. So those guys won a lot of football games for us and laid it on the line and they didn’t opt out and check it in like so many people are doing and it’s so easy to do right now in this day and age.
And I just appreciate the way we finished up and the way we played tonight. Again, not perfect, but played really hard.
Q. I know you got still a big week and some decisions ahead with the bowl game and everything, but just how much of a relief is this? It’s got to feel better after a win, I would think, but win or loss just to get through this schedule and to be at the end of it.
MARK STOOPS: I think that’s a fair word right there. Relief. For coaches you really never want to feel that way, but this year I think that’s a fair word, just to get through it and persevere through difficult times and so we’ll see as we move forward.
Q. It’s such a weird year to evaluate. I mean, you went 4-4 against the teams on the original schedule. Theoretically you could have had four more nonconference wins and been 8-4 and it’s a completely different conversation. How do you kind of evaluate this year and what happened?
MARK STOOPS: That’s a great point and that’s for you to write and put that out there because I believe it too, but we have to deal with what it is. And so, it was difficult. It is difficult to play a 10 SEC schedule.
So, there’s really no point in me giving hypotheticals, but it’s most certainly different. I can promise you that. Just mentally, the drain that it has on your team and the way you start and not having the ability to kind of get your confidence and just have some room for error. Playing a 10-game SEC schedule for us, it’s just the pressure is immense and it’s every day, all day. That’s what people don’t, aren’t really always grasping, I don’t think. It’s not just these games. I mean, just the stress that it puts on you with the preparation and with our players, every day, all day. It takes its toll and I think you’re seeing that throughout the league.
Q. For those guys on the offensive line, those seniors, for their final play from scrimmage at Kroger Field to be a 79-yard touchdown run by Chris Rodriguez, just how fitting did you think that was?
MARK STOOPS: I really didn’t think about it. But just, again, just appreciate those guys. You can’t say enough about that, that really special group. They just have done so much for us and I appreciate the way they played today.
Q. I just wonder, were you going to be able to get any sleep tonight? You got so many things to think about with bowl games, signing day, staff evaluation. Do you get time to breathe tonight?
MARK STOOPS: I will get my standard rest time tonight, Larry, don’t you worry about that. It’s only a couple hours, but I’ll get a couple. No, I’m pretty beat up after these game, to be honest with you. I feel like I played.
But we’ll, we’re going to enjoy this tonight. You have to. They’re too hard to come by. That’s what a couple coaches, as I was getting aggravated on the sideline, and Coach Jeff Jagodzinski, he’s been around a long time and been a lot of places. He’s like, Coach, they’re hard to come by. Enjoy it. And I’m like, that’s a good point. So at that point, I took my headset off with about two-and-a-half minutes to go in the game and tried to take a breath.
Q. If you could talk a little bit about the balance, the offensive balance that you all struck tonight. I mean, for awhile there you were pretty much even passing and running and that’s something you hadn’t seen too much of this year.
MARK STOOPS: No, it was good to see. It really was. We felt like we can do that most of the year. We were, like I said, there’s just many issues. It’s hard to go back right now and think of all the what ifs, but it was nice to see that balance today.
Q. Just to clarify, have you made any final decisions on staff changes for next year?
MARK STOOPS: Out of respect, please, don’t press me on any of that today. It’s not right.
Q. It seemed like it was almost purposeful putting Terry (Wilson) out there to try to get that record and some of that stuff, and (Asim Rose) crossed the milestone. Those guys, you reflect maybe on what they have done, you know, specifically this year especially, but just over their careers.
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, without a doubt. We were trying to get some touches in that game. Obviously, we wanted to try to put them away and we were kind of just letting them linger around there for a minute in the second half, but we definitely wanted to get a few touches. You wanted Terry to get some opportunities. I wanted (Rose) to get it in there and score. And so, but we’re grateful for all those guys. And, again, the receivers just continue to play exceptionally hard and being very unselfish. And everybody wants the football, but they all continue to buy in and do whatever’s necessary, and that was evident tonight, and that’s what I’ll remember from this team.
Q. I was kind of going to ask the same thing, but more specifically about Terry (Wilson) and how you thought he played tonight.
MARK STOOPS: I really thought he did a good job. He managed the game well. I think, it’s always easy to nitpick, but you’re going to look back and you’re going to want a few plays over. And I thought late in the game, with the runs, with the two third-down runs, just having a little more understanding of needing to get that extra half yard or the extra yard to keep some drives alive and really get into a position to maybe put them away and it took us a while to do that. I have to credit South Carolina. It was difficult not seeing Will (Muschamp). I have great respect for Will, but I know a lot of their coaches, and they played an extremely hard. I mean, we’re not used to getting 300 yards rushing on us. That’s not a good feeling. I don’t like that. It’s probably why I have a humongous pain in my neck right now. But that’s a good staff, and again, I wish the best for Will. He’ll land on his feet, and many of those coaches over there are really good coaches.
Q. I apologize for not knowing this, but what even is the bowl process and how do you, going forward, balance what you think might be best for the program versus what might be best for the players for the next couple weeks?
MARK STOOPS: Well I think that will be a little bit of a balancing act there. I think our players have left it all on our practice field and on this game field and have left it there for us this year. There’s no question, they emptied the tank. They need to go get revived a little bit, get some time off, and I believe they’re going to have a great mindset when they get a little bit of rest. I think it’s difficult right now, I did bring it up and then I kind of stopped myself, I’m like, look, let these young people enjoy it for a minute and decompress for at least 12 hours before I have a meeting with them tomorrow. But I think there’s some obligation there for myself and our team and our league, and if it’s expected of us, we’ll do what I’ve done all year. We’ll put one foot ahead forward and keep on pressing on and be excited about that opportunity. You can’t take those things for granted. That wasn’t all the always the case when I walked in the door here and it does mean something to have maybe the first time in the history of this school to go to five straight bowls. And say what you want about the four wins, but it was only a 10-game schedule in the SEC, and hey, this stuff’s hard ... it’s hard. So we’ll evaluate it, I’ll talk with Mitch (Barnhart), he and I discussed it briefly this afternoon and he was great, he’s supportive either way, and we agreed to get together tomorrow and make the best decision for our program, for our players and our obligation for the league as well.
Q. You’re talking about things that hadn’t happened a lot before you got here. Your teams are responsible for almost half of the wins that this school has ever had against South Carolina. I know you don’t care about streaks and that kind of stuff, but how do you put that in perspective with winning four games and just kind of maintaining that level of consistency?
MARK STOOPS: Well, I think that it is important to continue, you know, us progressing and continue to push. There’s going to be bumps in the road. It’s not always easy. But I have to continue to push that program. And we’re, again I’ll use the word relieved, I guess, to get through this year, this difficult circumstance, but I’m also super excited, to be honest with you, to push and to get better and to continue to grow this program. I’m really excited about that.
Q. I didn’t notice Davonte Robinson during senior night, is he one of those guys that you’re expecting back next season?
MARK STOOPS: I hope so. (Robinson) and I did talk about that, and that’s the plan right now.
On getting 1,000 career yards and if this is the last game for him at Kentucky …
“I just want to enjoy this win. As a team, we are going to meet tomorrow and Coach Stoops is going to talk about those things and go over it all as a team to see where we are at. We are going to definitely enjoy this win tonight and go from there tomorrow.”
On reflecting on his time here at Kentucky …
“It has definitely been fun. There have been a lot of ups and down and I have learned a lot during my time being here. I have learned a lot of built a lot of relationships with my teammates and coaches. I feel like, my plan and what I wanted to do coming here as a redshirt sophomore, was to win football games and do things that have not been done here recently. I just feel like that was my mindset to come here and try to change the program. It was really fun to go out there and get this win and finish out how we did.”
On the offensive balance tonight …
“It was definitely satisfying to finish like that, but things happen throughout the season and you have to be able to adapt and continue to execute what you have been doing. Like I said, things happen and we had a lot of ups and downs but we stuck together through it all. I know for a fact that all of my teammates, that is the biggest thing that we are proud of going through this whole season dealing with COVID and Coach Schlarman and losing Chris Oats, it is tough and you don’t want it to happen as a team. It has definitely been a battle, but my teammates and coaches stuck through this and fought and here we are.”
On his relationships with Coach Gran and Coach Hinshaw …
“A lot of things, but I can briefly just touch on a few. If I don’t have a spectacular game or things aren’t going my way just stay in it. I feel like each week you have to bring it, especially in the SEC, you have to bring it each week. You cant take a play off. Every down matters. Every practice matters. Taking those little things and making sure that I am doing them right. These five years went really fast and the last thing I want to do is look back and say I could have done more. Coach Gran and Coach Hinshaw they stayed on me day in and day out. They pushed me, even Coach Stoops, they pushed me and I appreciate them for that.”
On how it feels to have the season coming to an end …
“It feels great, definitely, to end on that win for the seniors and for this team. It’s been a long year, a rough year with the circumstances, you know, COVID and everything. But, to finish strong like we did and to put together a game all four quarters, it felt great to do that.”
On how you evaluate the season based, on the circumstances …
“I’m just blessed to play. There was a time we thought we weren’t going to play this year. Overall, throughout the season, we had some wins and had some losses, but it was just a blessing just to be here and play this game. I take it for what it is. I am just glad that we got a chance to go out there and play the game we love.”
On how it feels to look back on the rushing records and overall numbers from his career …
“It means everything to me. My career here, I feel like I had a great career here. I feel like I waited my turn, and when my number was called, I contributed, and I produced. It feels great to be a part of the top 10 here and to have 2,000 yards all-purpose. It just feels great to be a part of that group of guys and to just finish strong how I did. I give credit to my offensive linemen. They did a great job up front today. They were moving people around all night. It’s just a blessing to get that W for the last home game.”
Jamar “Boogie” Watson
On how you evaluate the season as a whole …
“It was a unique season. Starting with the 10-game SEC schedule, that is unique within itself. It’s the toughest conference in the country, I think. So, starting with that, just knowing you have 10 SEC games is brutal. You have to mentally prepare on another level, as well as physically. Going through the season, the things we dealt with, with Coach John Schlarman and things like that, it made it even tougher for us to get through the season. For us to end it on a win, it’s a good feeling and it shows that we pushed through adversity.”
On what you did to stay focused and healthy with everything the team dealt with this year …
“Right, it was kind of tough. Like Coach Mark Stoops said one day, it’s like practice, to the dorms, homework, practice, to the dorms, homework. That’s kind of what it’s been like because of COVID and the restrictions we have. It’s definitely been tougher this year without having those opportunities to get together with other teammates and things like that to kind of cope with whatever is going on off the field. I think us, we did enough with each other as a team to try and keep the camaraderie going and try to get through what we were going through as a team.”
On thinking back on your career and what your most proud of …
“I think the thing I will be most proud of is what I have been able to accomplish here. I was a basketball player coming up my whole life, I didn’t start playing football until my junior year of high school. I was a two-star recruit, the lowest rated recruit in my class of 2016. So, for me to finish out my senior day the way I did, and to accomplish the things I’ve done while I have been here, I am very appreciative of what I’ve done. I am proud of the work I put in. Then, the teammates I have built relationships with over the past five years are guys that I will talk to the rest of my life. I’ve met best friends here and guys that I will truly remember the rest of my life.”