The Gamecocks' offense struggled to gain momentum in their 16-10 loss against the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday night.
South Carolina only managed to total 80 yards of offense in the first half. The team tried to get the run game going early, but Kentucky’s defensive line made it difficult for the Gamecocks’ backs to find open running lanes.
The Wildcats did not have that issue. Throughout the game game, the Wildcats' offensive line created holes for their backs to make big runs and pick up big chunks of yards. The team ran the ball for 230 of its 332 total yards.
On the team's first possession of the game, Kentucky ran for 65 yards and got six first downs. The Wildcats finished the drive with a touchdown run from junior running back Kavosiey Smoke.
“They came out. We knew what they were going to give us, but we just didn’t pay attention to those small details, and it cost us the first drive,” redshirt senior defensive back Jaylan Foster said.
The Gamecock defense managed to hold Kentucky to 3 points after the first drive, but the teams' offense was stayed stagnant.
South Carolina was down 10-0 at halftime.
The Gamecocks' offense started to find their rhythm at the start of the second half. The team made the choice to put the ball in the hands of its quarterback and let him sling it around the field.
“We knew that we needed to kinda loosen them up. We felt like we were wearing them down a little bit with some of the tempo we were using,” head coach Shane Beamer said. “We’ve got some good receivers, and we’ve got to continue to throw the ball down the field and take shots.”
Sophomore quarterback Luke Doty was on target during this drive, hitting his receivers in stride.
Eventually, Doty hit senior wide receiver Jalen Brooks for a five-yard touchdown to bring the Gamecocks within 3 points, at the time.
The Gamecocks went on a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on its first possession of the half, but after that, the offense went cold.
Doty played a solid game in his first start of the season. He connected on 17 of his 25 pass attempts for 158 yards and had a 134.3 passer rating, but he says the credit goes to his teammates.
“Our receivers made some great plays for us, our offensive line had a hell of a night of protection, so I’m just really proud of those guys and how they fought,” Doty said.
The Gamecock defensive team kept this game close, not letting Kentucky score another touchdown after the opening drive.
South Carolina forced an interception and had two fumble recoveries. The team has forced 10 turnovers through its first four games. Redshirt senior linebacker Brad Johnson credits the team's success to defensive coordinator Clayton White.
“The mentality that coach White is trying to instill in us and that’s get the ball out at any chance and opportunity we can get. Him being my personal coach, at linebacker and our coordinator I hear it all the time, so I think that has a big part to do with him,” Johnson said.
Foster recorded his fourth interception of the season when he went up and snagged a bomb thrown by Kentucky’s junior quarterback Will Levis.
Unfortunately, South Carolina’s offense did not convert any of those turnovers to points.
Kentucky kicker Matt Ruffolo went 3-3 on his field-goal attempts to give the Wildcats a win. For the Gamecocks, redshirt senior Parker White hit his only attempt from 54 yards.
South Carolina's inability to successfully run the ball ending up hurting the team. No player ran the ball for more than 40 yards or had a run greater than 10 yards.
The team will use its upcoming practices to work on some of the things it felt went wrong in this game.
“We are going to go back in there tomorrow, watch some film, get things corrected, and we’re going to move on. We’re going to continue to get better. We're going to rally around each other,” Doty said.
The Gamecocks’ next matchup will be Saturday when they host Troy at 3:30 p.m. on the SEC network.