The past is the past, Brandon Wilds says.
We can’t dwell on that loss, Shon Carson says.
That’s not what it sounds like in the locker room, Isaiah Johnson says.
Johnson, a graduate transfer safety for South Carolina, was not part of the Gamecocks team that lost 45-38 to Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., last year, but he’s heard enough about the game in the last four days that sometimes it feels like he was there.
“I hear it every day,” Johnson said Tuesday. “They are real passionate. They wanted to win that last year. We talk about it every day, we want to get better this week so we can beat these guys Saturday and I guess get revenge.”
His comments came during head coach Steve Spurrier’s weekly news conference and after Wilds and Carson, senior running backs for the Gamecocks, had fallen back on a couple of workhorses among college football clichés.
Wilds: “We can only focus on right now. Hopefully, we can go out there and get a win.”
Carson: “We can’t dwell over the loss we had last year. We just have to go out and get better every week.”
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier himself dismissed any revenge angle heading into this week’s game.
“I always believe that last year, whoever you play, is history,” he said. “Every game stands on its own merit.”
It’s a hard night to forget, though, and not just because it was Spurrier’s second loss to the Wildcats in 23 career games. The Gamecocks seemingly had shaken off the previous week’s 21-20 loss to Missouri as they ran out to a 38-24 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Kentucky tailback JoJo Kemp rushed for 118 yards in the game’s final six minutes to lead a Wildcats comeback.
It was one of six of South Carolina’s conference games decided by seven or fewer points last year (two wins, four losses), and it continued a midseason slide from which the Gamecocks did not recover until the middle of November.
“Got beat several times last year in a similar way, and we're trying to prevent it from happening this year,” Spurrier said.
South Carolina was 8-3 in games decided by a touchdown or less from 2011-2013, a span in which it won 33 games overall, and Spurrier suggested Tuesday that his team should be ready for more close games this season.
“Winning by three or four touchdowns, I don’t know if that’s in our DNA right now,” he said.
Kentucky would be happy with any win at this point. The Wildcats haven’t won a conference game since that night, and Kentucky and South Carolina are a combined 1-7 in the SEC since that game. The Wildcats are 1-7 in road games under third-year head coach Mark Stoops.
“I think that's been well documented: our struggles on the road and SEC opponents,” Stoops said. “This is going to be another great challenge, and it's a great opportunity for us. That's the big thing that we'll take from it. It's a great opportunity. We have to worry about ourselves this week and our preparation and go down there with a strong mindset and try to get a victory in a very hostile environment.”
Gamecocks vs. Wildcats
Who: South Carolina (1-0) vs. Kentucky (1-0)
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: SEC Network
LINE: USC by 7.5 (over-under 58.5)