UK FOOTBALL | 3 keys to beating South Carolina
09/12/2015 06:46 PM
COLUMBIA, S.C. — It’s only Week 2, but the Kentucky Wildcats already face one of their most important games of the 2015 season today in Columbia, South Carolina.
After a 40-33 victory over UL-Lafayette in its season opener, Kentucky has a golden opportunity to end its road woes and validate its rise to being a competitor in the SEC East with a win over the Gamecocks.
But it won’t be easy.
UK has lost 22 consecutive contests away from the friendly confines of Commonwealth Stadium, and despite upsetting South Carolina at home last season, the Wildcats haven’t won at Williams-Brice Stadium this millennium (1999).
Streaks, reputation, history, an undefeated record — they’re all on the line when the Cats and Gamecocks kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Here are our three keys to a UK victory:
1(a) – Hit the Gas Early
Kentucky jumped all over UL-Lafayette in the first half of its season opener, taking the first offensive play 75 yards for a touchdown, leading 21-0 in the second quarter, and owning a 24-7 lead at intermission.
UK did overcome a 14-0 deficit to defeat the Gamecocks last season, but that was at home. If the Cats want to leave Columbia with a victory this year, they’ll need to strike first and strike often.
1(b) – Don’t Run Out of Gas Late
How quickly that early lead against UL-Lafayette disappeared.
The Rajin’ Cajuns outscored the Wildcats 26-16 in the second half to rage all the way back to a 33-33 tie in the fourth quarter before a final-minute touchdown run from Mikel Horton saved the Kentucky victory.
A similar second half collapse will doom UK in Columbia and keep its road losing streak alive.
2 – Protect the Ball
Key to UK’s fast start against against ULL was forcing two turnovers in the first half, both by the hands of junior cornerback J.D. Harmon. A Patrick Towles interception in the third quarter sparked the Rajin’ Cajun comeback.
Kentucky won the turnover battle, 3-1, against South Carolina last season and will need a similar margin today to win on the road.
3 – Win the 50/50 Battles
The Wildcats flew all over the field against UL-Lafayette — sometimes good, and sometimes bad.
Kentucky recovered both fumbles that hit the ground, but its young defense also overpursued against ULL’s misdirection offense, surrendering multiple big plays in the second half.
An extra gear is always needed to win on the road, especially in the SEC. In a game that’s expected to be decided in the final minutes, Kentucky will need all the hustle plays it can muster to tip the outcome into its favor.
Kentucky hasn’t won an SEC road game this decade, but streaks are meant to be broken.
Towles protects the ball, Boom and Jojo run wild again, and UK’s defense does just enough to bend but not break.
- SCORE PREDICTION: Kentucky 35, South Carolina 31