The South Carolina football team (4-6, 2-5 SEC) is going for three wins in a row when the Kentucky Wildcats (6-4, 3-4 SEC) come to Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.
The Gamecocks are continuing to gain confidence as a team after winning two straight games, and the energy and cohesiveness can be felt in the locker room, graduate student tight end Joshua Simon said.
“After that win, and we got the momentum going, and everybody — we can taste it. It's like the blood in the water,” Simon said. “We can taste it, and we’re ready to go finish.”
South Carolina came out firing on offense against Vanderbilt last week, scoring 47 points and earning its second straight win after losing four in a row. Redshirt senior quarterback Spencer Rattler threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns against the Commodores, including completing nine passes for 120 yards to fifth-year wide receiver Xavier Legette.
Legette’s performance etched him into the Gamecocks' record books, becoming the fifth wide receiver in school history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a single season, joining Sidney Rice, Pharoh Cooper, Sterling Sharpe and Alshon Jeffery. The performance also marked his sixth game with over 100 receiving yards on the season.
Kentucky began its season by winning five straight games but has since dropped four of its last five matchups, most recently falling to No. 8 Alabama. The Wildcats haved scored an average of 21.2 points per game in those five games while allowing 34.8 points per game to opponents.
Kentucky is still recognized as one of the better defensive teams in the SEC, allowing only 25 points per game compared to South Carolina's 28.6. The Gamecocks' offense, however, is one of the three in the SEC with over 3,000 passing yards, only trailing No. 15 LSU and No. 1 Georgia.
“(The Wildcats) don’t necessarily try and trick you. With what they do, they’re very good at. They know how teams try and attack it, and they’re very well coached and very disciplined,” South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer said. “You have to beat them from an offensive standpoint versus their defense.”
South Carolina, which has dropped seven of its last nine games against Kentucky, defeated the Wildcats 24-14 in last season’s matchup behind a balanced passing and rushing attack. Rattler went completed 14 of 19 passes for 177 yards and one passing touchdown, while the running game combined for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
Although the team is in must-win territory again — the Gamecocks need to beat Kentucky this week and Clemson next week to make a bowl game — redshirt junior defensive lineman Alex Huntley said he and his teammates know it is vital to stay in the present ahead of this week's matchup.
“I can definitely see the similarities between the two," Huntley said. "I try not to look back at last year or kind of think about it too much just because, at the end of the day, it is last year. It was a different team, different time, so it’s really just focusing on ourselves.”
The Gamecocks enter the game as 1.5 point underdogs, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
South Carolina and Kentucky will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium on Nov. 18, and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.