LEXINGTON, Ky. | Just when Marcus Lattimore looked like he was headed for another historic night and South Carolina looked like it was headed for a blowout win, things got ugly for the No. 10 Gamecocks football team.
After building a 28-10 lead, South Carolina collapsed when Lattimore left the game with a sprained ankle and fell 31-28 to Kentucky in front of 67,955 fans at Commonwealth Stadium. It was Steve Spurrier’s first loss to the Wildcats and Kentucky’s first win in the SEC this season.
“You guys watched it; they kicked our tails in the second half,” said Spurrier, who is 17-1 all time against Kentucky.
The Wildcats took their first lead with 1:15 remaining when quarterback Mike Hartline faced down heavy pressure and found a wide-open Randall Cobb for a 24-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-7.
“That was a busted coverage,” assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson said. “It’s getting to be a pretty common thing.”
The Gamecocks (4-2, 2-2 SEC) moved the ball down the field and had a chance to win on a jump ball thrown by quarterback Stephen Garcia to Lamar Scruggs in the back corner of the end zone, but the ball was tipped and picked off by Anthony Mosley with four seconds remaining.
“We had one-on-one with our receiver,” Spurrier said. “Stephen just, it didn’t come out of his hand very well, and he got it inside instead of the outside corner. They came by and got the ricochet pick just like the last three weeks.”
Spurrier said the final pass didn’t go to leading receiver Alshon Jeffery, who is 6-foot-4 and the Gamecocks’ usual target in such situations, because the Wildcats were covering Jeffery with a cornerback and a safety. The Gamecocks were on the 20-yard line, well within the range of place-kicker Spencer Lanning, and there with 11 seconds remaining when the ball was snapped.
“We were in field-goal range; I knew that,” Spurrier said. “I thought it was worth a shot to throw it into man-to-man in the back of the end zone there, but we didn’t get the ball there, so it was a bad call.”
There weren’t many bad calls in the first half as Lattimore rolled up 204 all-purpose yards and the Gamecocks built an 18-point lead, but Lattimore left after spraining his left ankle on USC’s second offensive play of the third quarter. He finished with a career-high 133 receiving yards, 79 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
The Gamecocks, who lost the turnover battle 4-0, had 377 yards with Lattimore in the game and 95 in the 27 minutes he sat out.
“We just didn’t come out in the second half ready to play,” said Brian Maddox, who replaced Lattimore but had 13 yards on three carries.
Garcia finished with a career-high 382 yards on 20-of-32 passing. He had two touchdowns, two interceptions and a sick feeling in his gut after his team couldn’t capitalize on the momentum it built by beating then-No. 1 Alabama last week. He couldn’t describe the disappointment he felt after USC had suffered its seventh consecutive SEC road loss.
“Not in words I can say to the media right now,” he said. “Definitely, it takes everything away from (the Alabama win).”
The Gamecocks’ defenders couldn’t have felt any better. After holding the SEC’s third-most prolific scoring offense to 139 yards and 10 points in the first half, USC gave up 262 yards and 21 unanswered points in the second half. The Wildcats converted 7 of 11 third-down attempts in the second half and 9 of 19 for the game.
USC remains in first place in the SEC East thanks to Florida’s 10-7 loss to Mississippi State Saturday.
“We are still in the hunt,” Spurrier said. “Now if we fall on our face or get beat again, we won’t be in the hunt, but the Eastern Division is a little down this year, so we are still in the hunt.”
USC - Lattimore 30 run (Lanning kick), 11:53.
USC - A.Jeffery 3 pass from Garcia (Lanning kick), 4:40.
UK - King 10 pass from Hartline (McIntosh kick), 13:10.
USC - Lattimore 10 run (Lanning kick), 9:55.
UK - FG McIntosh 26, 3:15.
USC - Lattimore 47 pass from Garcia (Lanning kick), 2:03.
UK - King 5 pass from Hartline (McIntosh kick), 3:49.
UK - Matthews 38 pass from Hartline (pass failed), 13:09.
UK - Cobb 24 pass from Hartline (Cobb run), 1:15.
|Time of Possession||25:13||34:47|
RUSHING: South Carolina, Lattimore 15-79, Maddox 3-13, C.Shaw 1-9, A.Sanders 1-0, Garcia 3-(minus 11). Kentucky, Russell 18-41, Cobb 8-27, Allen 2-9, Team 1-0, Hartline 4-(minus 25).
PASSING: South Carolina, Garcia 20-32-2-382. Kentucky, Hartline 32-42-0-349.
RECEIVING: South Carolina, A.Jeffery 6-65, Lattimore 4-133, Maddox 3-9, A.Sanders 2-70, Gurley 2-43, Scruggs 1-39, D.L. Moore 1-16, DiMarco 1-7. Kentucky, Matthews 12-177, Cobb 8-63, Russell 7-70, King 4-38, Aumiller 1-1.