On a clear night at Williams-Brice, South Carolina had their first home matchup against SEC East competitor Kentucky. Last year, Kentucky pulled off some late-game heroics by scoring 21 unanswered points to garner a win.
This season, it was the Gamecocks that tried to pull off the fourth quarter comeback. Despite being just a 2-point conversion away from tying the game midway through the fourth quarter, South Carolina fell 26-22.
First half defense was atrocious
The Gamecocks defense came out on fire. After transfer punter Sean Kelly pinned Kentucky inside their own three, junior Skai Moore came up with an interception on the 20 and returned it down to the Gamecocks' one. Quarterback Connor Mitch did the rest, punching it in untouched on the next play.
Kentucky marched right down the field on a 10 play, 80-yard drive in which junior Patrick Towles completed five passes for 57 yards. Mikel Horton finished off the drive with an 8-yard.
Then the Wildcats began march down the field with ease. With a little under two minutes left in the first quarter, Jojo Kemp came through with an easy TD run to make it 14-7. Kentucky proceeded to score another touchdown and a field goal to end the half leading 24-7. They milled up 307 balanced yards in the first half — 156 rushing and 151 passing.
Mitch hurt on a 50-50 play
With 3 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, Mitch pitched the ball on an option to David Williams. The redshirt sophomore running back dropped the pitch and the ball rolled live on the ground. Mitch laid out to challenge a couple of Wildcats for the ball and, even though he recovered it, immediate trotted off the field holding his right arm. He was rushed to the locker room, diagnosed with a right shoulder sprain and declared out for the game.
Junior Perry Orth replaced the injured Mitch for two plays before he was subbed out for true freshman Lorenzo Nunez for the last play of the half. The two divided quarterback time in the second half, with Nunez primarily running the ball and Orth throwing.
Mitch was declared out for 4-6 weeks on a separated shoulder.
Oh Perry, where Orth thou?
Once Mitch came off the field, many expected that junior Perry Orth and true freshman Lorenzo Nunez would play. However, head coach Steve Spurrier put all his faith in Orth, and rightly so.
Orth led the Gamecocks' most impressive drive of the night, a 10 play, 78-yarder. On that drive, Orth threw for 65 yards, including a 33-yard zinger down the middle to senior tight end Jerell Adams.
His only downfall cost the Gamecocks the game. After driving down the field from the Gamecocks own 11 to the Kentucky 37, down four, the former walk-on rolled to his left and tossed the ball into the hands of Kentucky's true freshman cornerback Chris Westry. Kentucky only needed one first down before they initiated the "victory formation" to run out the clock.
Orth ended the night with 179 yards through the air and a touchdown.
More FGs than TDs in the RZ
Getting to the red zone for the Gamecocks didn't appear to be too difficult a task. Converting the extra yards was a chore. Out of the four times inside the red zone, South Carolina called upon Elliott Fry three times in the Kentucky 20, chipping in field goals from 27, 29 and 21 yards. The only touchdown within Kentucky's 20 was the first score of the game on a 3-yard run by Mitch.
The Wildcats finished the game with a 26-22 win. South Carolina outgained Kentucky 417 (195 rushing/222 passing) to 399 (207 rushing/192 passing). Pharoh Cooper caught nine passes for 100 yards. Brandon Wilds was the leading rusher for the Gamecocks with 107 yards on 16 carries. Linebacker Jonathon Walton had the most tackles for the Gamecocks with 10.
Quote of the Night
"It was a strange game. They got more points than we did." — Head coach Steve Spurrier