--- This story was originally published Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, the last time South Carolina defeated Kentucky in Lexington. ---
South Carolina turned the tables on Kentucky here Saturday night.
Two years after being upset in Commonwealth Stadium by a 21-0 second half rally, the No. 6 Gamecocks fell behind the Wildcats 17-7 before storming to a 38-17 win in front of 49,180 fans.
“Coming in for halftime, I told somebody, ‘We don’t have to worry about being overconfident in the second half or get full of ourselves like maybe two years ago,’ ” coach Steve Spurrier said. “Really proud of our guys.”
The victory salvaged the luster of next week’s game against No. 5 Georgia in Williams-Brice Stadium as South Carolina (5-0, 3-0 SEC) remained unbeaten and tied a school record with its ninth consecutive victory. ESPN announced Saturday night that it will broadcast its College GameDay show from the Horseshoe on South Carolina’s campus next week.
“We will talk about Georgia next week,” Spurrier said. “I’d like to talk about beating Kentucky. It wasn’t as easy as a lot of people thought.”
The Wildcats (1-4) dominated the first 30 minutes and had a 10-point lead at halftime. However, Kentucky botched the final minute of the first half to squander a score, and South Carolina made the Wildcats pay for the mistake quickly in the second half.
The Gamecocks scored touchdowns on their first three second-half possessions and scored on five of their six possessions in the final 30 minutes. A South Carolina defense that gave up 173 yards and 12 first downs in the first half held Kentucky to 70 yards and four first downs in the second half.
“We just had to settle down and go play,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “Kentucky did a great job coming out. They played with a lot of emotion, and we have to meet that. We have to start the game better.”
South Carolina’s offensive turnaround was even more dramatic as the Gamecocks turned to junior tailback Marcus Lattimore to salvage the second half. Lattimore had five carries for 12 yards in the first half but finished with 23 carries for a season-high 120 yards. He also scored twice in the second half.
“Nothing else was working very well, and we were getting sacked all over the place so it was time to give it to him and give it to him,” Spurrier said. “Maybe we learned something today, that the ol’ I-formation, the ol’ power play, sweeps, this, that and the other aren’t bad. You don’t have to run those zone reads and all that shotgun stuff all the time.”
South Carolina had 240 of its 348 yards in the second half, and quarterback Connor Shaw finished 15-of-18 for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
“I just think we knew what we had to do to win, to get back to our bread and butter,” Shaw said. “We had to get Marcus involved and that’s what we did in the second half. We just knew we had to get back to what we were good at, pounding the ball.”
Seven Gamecocks caught passes but none had more than Damiere Byrd’s 32 yards, which included a 30-yard touchdown pass to open the second half scoring. Senior running back Kenny Miles gave South Carolina its final lead with a 17-yard run that put the Gamecocks up 21-17 with 4:56 left in the third quarter.
“Our guys had a really good look in their eyes that they wanted to play the second half,” Spurrier said. “There wasn’t any moping. Nobody was pouting. Nobody was pointing fingers. We were all bad so there weren’t any fingers to point.”
Now it’s on to the Bulldogs, who beat Tennessee 51-44 on Saturday.
“It was a good win, and maybe we learned something about ourselves,” Spurrier said. “We have a chance for a real good season, we have a chance for a good season, a real good season, an outstanding season • or an average season.”
THE LAST USC WIN VS. UK
South Carolina’s last win in the series vs. Kentucky came in 2013 at Williams-Brice Stadium. The 13th-ranked Gamecocks opened up a 27-7 lead over Kentucky heading into the final stanza, but the Wildcats made it interesting with 21 fourth-quarter points before falling 35-28 in Columbia on Oct. 5, 2013. Mike Davis rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Connor Shaw added 312 yards of total offense, including 262 through the air on 17-of-20 passing. Damiere Byrd had one of the top days of his career, catching five passes for 94 yards, including a 62-yard TD catch on the first drive of the game.