South Carolina showed up for a blackout and left with a black eye.
The Gamecocks asked their fans to come dressed in black for the first home game of the season. The fans showed up. The Gamecocks of the first two games of the season did not, and Kentucky upset South Carolina 23-13 in front of 82,493 in Williams-Brice Stadium.
“Extremely disappointed,” coach Will Muschamp said. “I hate it for our fans because they were certainly excited to be there. It was a wonderful environment that they created and we certainly didn’t follow up with it.”
The Gamecocks fell to 2-1 and 1-1 in the SEC, as the Wildcats improved to 3-0 and 1-0 in the league. The game might not even have been the worst loss of the night for South Carolina.
Junior wide receiver Deebo Samuel was lost for the season because of a broken leg he suffered in the third quarter. Samuel has six of the Gamecocks’ 11 touchdowns this season.
“Disappointed for him. Wonderful young man. I am extremely disappointed for that,” Muschamp said.
Kentucky has beaten South Carolina in four consecutive seasons. The last time the Wildcats beat an SEC team four years in a row was 2004-07 when they did it to Vanderbilt. The time before that Bear Bryant was Kentucky’s coach. Current Wildcats coach Mark Stoops is in his sixth season. He’s now won nine SEC games. Four of them have been against South Carolina.
The Gamecocks outgained Kentucky 358-353, winning the yardage battle for the first time this season, but South Carolina rushed for only 54 yards on 20 carries. On top of that, they missed four kicks, committed seven penalties for 45 yards and were three-for-12 on third down conversions while allowing Kentucky to convert 9-for-16 third down attempts.
“I felt like we had good preparation,” Muschamp said.
The game started well as quarterback Jake Bentley found Samuel for a 68-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the game. After Alexander Woznick missed the extra point, South Carolina led 6-0 with 14:47 left in the first quarter. The Gamecocks defense forced turnovers in USC territory on the next two Kentucky possessions, but South Carolina couldn’t add to its lead.
“I didn’t want to say it to the players, but I knew then that was going to come back to haunt us,” Muschamp said. “I hoped it wouldn’t, but it did. You don’t gain on that momentum on two short fields at home in that environment, that was disappointing.”
Star of the game: Bentley had the second 300-plus yard passing game of his career. Bentley finished 24-for-35 for 304 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The only other time he eclipsed 300 yards was in the Birmingham Bowl last year against South Florida, when he had 390 yards through the air in a Gamecocks loss.
Play of the game: Samuel didn’t get a chance to return the first kickoff (or any kickoff as Kentucky wisely avoided him) but he didn’t wait long to score. Bentley found him on a skinny crossing route on the first offensive play of the game and he raced 68 yards to put South Carolina ahead 6-0 with 14:47 left in the first quarter. Samuel finished with five catches for 122 yards before leaving in the second half with a broken leg.
Stat of the game: The Gamecocks rushed for 54 yards on 20 carries, and their inability to convert critical short-yardage situations was their undoing. Early in the third and fourth quarters, South Carolina turned the ball over on downs because it couldn’t gain 1 yard on the ground. In the third quarter, it had three consecutive tries at it and couldn’t get it done. “We got whipped up front,” Muschamp said.
Not as special: The Gamecocks dominated their first two opponents in special teams, but it all came crashing down Saturday night. South Carolina missed four kicks against the Wildcats. After Samuel scored to open the game, Woznick missed the extra point. Parker White then missed from 52 and 54 yards. Woznick got another chance in the fourth quarter from 42 yards, but the kick came up well short, drawing a chorus of boos from the home crowd. When White hit an extra point with 6:26 left in the game, the crowd cheered wildly. White will take over all the place-kicking duties now, Muschamp said.
Offensive line movement: Junior college transfer Dennis Daley (6-foot-6, 330 pounds) made his first major college start, replacing Malik Young at left tackle. Young started the first two games of the year, but struggled against Missouri and was replaced during that game by Daley, a three-star prospect who played at Ridge View High School. Daley played the entire game, but Young did get in, replacing an injured Zack Bailey at right tackle in the fourth quarter.
Shell game: Kentucky used three players at quarterback in the first quarter alone, and none of them was backup quarterback Drew Barker, a one-time South Carolina recruiting target. Stephen Johnson started at quarterback for the Wildcats and was spelled often by running back Benny Snell and wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. as wildcat quarterbacks. Snell was a familiar site in that position. He had 73 rushing yards on 16 carries, often from the wildcat position, last year against South Carolina, but Bowden is a newcomer. The 6-1, 190-pounder was the star of Kentucky’s most recent recruiting class, a four-star prospect who also had offers from Michigan, Penn State and Tennessee.
Who: Louisiana Tech at South Carolina
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Kentucky 23, South Carolina 13
SC—Samuel 68 pass from Bentley (kick failed), 14:47
KEN—Snell 5 run (MacGinnis kick), 1:05
KEN—Snell 1 run (MacGinnis kick), 8:37
KEN—FG MacGinnis 27, 5:25
KEN—FG MacGinnis 44, 8:59
SC—O.Smith 9 pass from Bentley (White kick), 6:26
KEN—FG MacGinnis 21, 2:07
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Kentucky, Snell 32-103, S.Johnson 7-74, S.King 2-15, Bowden 3-10, (Team) 3-(minus 17). South Carolina, Dowdle 8-23, Bentley 7-19, Turner 5-12.
PASSING—Kentucky, Snell 0-1-0-0, S.Johnson 16-25-1-169. South Carolina, Bentley 24-36-2-304, (Team) 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Kentucky, G.Johnson 4-41, Conrad 2-36, T.Richardson 2-29, Ross 2-14, C.Walker 2-13, S.King 1-18, Bone 1-9, Rigg 1-6, G.Hart 1-3. South Carolina, Samuel 5-122, B.Edwards 5-57, Hurst 4-39, Dowdle 3-25, T.Williams 2-7, S.Smith 1-25, R.Davis 1-9, O.Smith 1-9, Turner 1-6, Terrell 1-5.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—South Carolina, White 52, White 54, Woznick 42.