That was one a rough one for the Kentucky Wildcats.
The game started with the South Carolina Gamecocks thwarting a trick play and nearly scoring a defensive touchdown before many fans had even found their seats.
The 7-0 deficit at the end of the first quarter felt much larger in margin than the score reflected.
In the first 15 minutes UK managed to botch a trick play, commit multiple false start penalties, have a punt blocked, and miss a field goal.
If it wasn’t for a consistent effort from Brad White’s defense to stabilize a horrendous start the scoring gap could have easily been two or even three touchdowns. Things could have been in an even darker spot had Ty Ajian not forced fumble while sacking USC quarterback Spencer Rattler. Thankfully, the Cats regained the services of JJ Weaver who returned from injury and came out of a wild scramble to secure possession of the fumble.
Saying that Kentucky was fortunate to go into the break tied 7-7 was an understatement.
A lackluster third quarter on both sides of the ball put Mark Stoops’ team in a 10-point hole heading into the last 15 minutes of play.
After getting down 17-7 the air was really taken out of the stadium as Kentucky could get nothing going on offense and the defense was giving up rare scoring plays.
Kaiya Sheron surely didn’t look like a fish out of water, the redshirt freshman showed some bright spots, but overall, he wasn’t able to effectively move the chains, and it’s just that simple.
Sheron’s stats were modest. The Somerset native did make a beautiful 16-yard touchdown throw to Jordan Dingle in the first half, but overall, was unable to execute much of the offensive game plan.
For stretches of this game, Kentucky’s offense and defense both looked about as bad as they have all season, and it cost them in a major way. Losing to a winless SEC East team at home was a horrendous consequence of a banged-up team not showing up ready to play.
Obviously moving forward, all eyes and ears will be on the status of Will Levis. His availability against Mississippi State will likely make the ultimate difference in UK avoiding a painful three game losing streak.
Choosing Kentucky’s MVP was low-hanging fruit well before this game even began.
With or without Will Levis pretty much everyone knew that a heavy dose of Chris Rodriguez was a forgone conclusion. After getting a little too cute to open up the game there was a concerted effort to get C-Rod the ball early and often. By halftime the bruising back had nearly 100 yards rushing on 16 carries, which included a long run of 20 yards.
Rodriguez would do what he does and run hard every chance he got, but it wasn’t enough to offset the struggling passing game that failed to get any of UK’s receiving threats involved in the attack.
In fact, somehow Rich Scangarello had difficulty even getting C-rod touches in second half, which had the offense even more discombobulated.
It was a frustrating performance on many levels, but Chris Rodriguez did all he could to keep Kentucky’s chance alive.