Three and Out: Kentucky ends road drought with win over South Carolina
Kentucky defeated South Carolina 26–22 in Columbia on Saturday in a game that featured two of the four SEC teams not ranked in this week’s AP top 25 poll. The Wildcats and Gamecocks each entered Saturday’s matchup at 1–0 after beating Louisiana-Lafayette and North Carolina, respectively, in Week 1.
Here are three quick thoughts on Kentucky's win:
1. Kentucky’s road win drought mercifully comes to an end
It took more than five years and 22 games, but Kentucky finally got the road monkey off its back. Saturday’s win was the Wildcats’ first victory in a true road game since Sept. 4, 2010 when they defeated in-state rival Louisville. SEC or not, it’s impossible to find any sort of success as a program without the ability to grind out wins away from home. Fortunately for Kentucky, it has only four regular-season road games on its schedule, including Saturday's win, and the last one, a Nov. 14 matchup against Vanderbilt, is certainly winnable. Kentucky’s other two trips away from Lexington are at No. 25 Mississippi State on Oct. 24 and at No. 10 Georgia on Nov. 7, and while unlikely, if it’s able to steal one of them like it did on Saturday, it could very well find itself in the top two or three in the SEC East, especially considering Florida, Tennessee and Missouri’s Week 2 troubles.
2. Mark Stoops’s presence is finally being felt
Now in his third year at the helm, Stoops appears to finally have some pieces coming together. He won two games his first season in 2013, five in ’14 and is already out to a strong start in ’15. He has upset Steve Spurrier in each of the last two seasons—the Wildcats defeated South Carolina 45–38 last year in the largest fourth-quarter comeback in Kentucky history—and his impact on the recruiting trail is finally coming to fruition.
Kentucky completely dominated the Gamecocks in the first half Saturday, bulldozing them for 308 yards (155 on the ground) and 16 first downs in the opening 30 minutes. South Carolina responded in the second frame, but not before the damage had been done. Kentucky junior quarterback Patrick Towles went 21 for 29 for 192 yards with an interception, but found the end zone on the ground and played just well enough to keep Kentucky in front. Stanley Williams and Jojo Kemp combined for 27 carries, 185 yards and a touchdown. Kentucky looked formidable on its offensive line, and in a physical SEC, that will pay major dividends later in the season.
3. South Carolina is in a world of hurt
A week after scraping past North Carolina, the Head Ball Coach & Co. fumbled an opportunity to start off the conference season in the black. The rest of South Carolina’s schedule is not exactly favorable—it features trips to Georgia, Missouri, Texas A&M and Tennessee, all of which entered Week 2 in the top 25—and its darkhorse hopes for a shot at the East Division title took a serious hit. To add injury to insult, in this case, starting QB Connor Mitch exited with what Spurrier said was a separated shoulder and was replaced by backup Perry Orth. Orth went 13 for 20 with 179 yards, but he threw an interception at the Wildcats’ 26-yard line with his team down by four and a little over four minutes left in the game. With Mitch likely out for the season, the Gamecocks are going to have to regroup, and quickly—they visit Georgia next week.