The Kentucky Wildcats took home a win on Saturday over Chattanooga, but it left a very sour taste in many fans’ mouths.
Kentucky struggled on both sides of the trenches against an inferior FCS opponent, getting dominated on the offensive and defensive lines. Chris Rodriguez had nowhere to run against the Mocs, just a week after rushing for 207 yards and three touchdowns against Missouri.
On the defensive side, the pass rush struggled again, with Kentucky struggling to hit home on the Mocs’ quarterback. When they did hit a successful pass rush, it forced an errant pass leading to a Tyrell Ajian pick-six.
Was it just a simple clunker? Were the Wildcats just looking ahead to their first true road game of the season, under the lights in Columbia, against the South Carolina Gamecocks?
This will be the first full capacity road game that Kentucky has played since November 16th, 2019 against Vanderbilt (though it was full of Kentucky fans). Will they be ready?
Vince Marrow and quarterback Will Levis are confident, even after the struggling win on Saturday.
You guys are crazy when we came here in 13 or 14 we loose that game we 3 and 0 on to South Carolina. Go Big Blue. https://t.co/C0tJLVUvfh— CoachMarrowUK (@vincemarrow) September 19, 2021
Proud of how we finished, but best believe that we’re showing up as a different team in Columbia. Onto the next one. Let’s go.— Will Levis (@will_levis) September 18, 2021
Kentucky has won six of seven against the Gamecocks, with a blowout win coming in Lexington last season in the final moments of the Will Muschamp era in Columbia. The last time Kentucky traveled to Williams-Bryce, it was with an injured Sawyer Smith at quarterback. The injured Smith could barely throw due to a wrist injury, and the Gamecocks rolled Kentucky.
South Carolina is coming off a beatdown in Athens against the Georgia Bulldogs, 40-13. After starting Zeb Noland the first three games of the season, Noland left with an injury against Georgia, being replaced by Luke Doty, who completed 13/26 passes for 153 yards, one TD and one interception.
Does Doty get the start next week against the Cats if Noland can’t go? Doty showed good rhythm against an imposing Georgia defense. An imposing defense is something that Kentucky seems to be lacking going into Week 4 of the season, unusual for a Mark Stoops Kentucky team.
If Kentucky can’t right the ship on defense heading to Columbia, it could be a long night for Brad White’s unit.
Kentucky also needs to force turnovers. So far, heading into the second game of SEC play, Kentucky has forced two, TWO, turnovers on the season. That needs to change starting against South Carolina.
Will Levis struggled in hitting some throws against Chattanooga, overthrowing and making some questionable decision-making, but he has thrown for 800 yards on the season, along with seven touchdowns. He has almost reached Terry Wilson’s mark for all of last season.
Despite some miscues through the air, the passing game against Chattanooga wasn’t all bad. One bright spot was Levis finding Izayah Cummings through the air for a 31-yard touchdown. The tight ends need to be targeted more, especially after defenses start keying in on Josh Ali and Wan’Dale Robinson.
Utilize Cummings, Justin Rigg and Brendan Bates.
SEC Nation will be live from Columbia for the game, adding more fire to what will already be a hostile crowd. ESPN’s current matchup predictor has the Gamecocks with a 55.3% chance to win.
Kentucky is currently averaging 479 yards per game on offense to SCAR’s 355.3. The Kentucky defense is allowing 274.7 yards per game to SCAR’s 289.3. If Kentucky wants to make a statement ahead of Florida coming to town on October 2, winning at Williams-Bryce is a start.
Game: Kentucky Wildcats at South Carolina Gamecocks in Week 4
Location: Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina
Time: 7 pm ET on Sept. 25
TV Channel: ESPN2
Radio: UK Sports Network
Prediction: TeamRankings is projecting a 28-21 victory, Kentucky.