UK FOOTBALL | "Turning-point" win over South Carolina has Wildcats confident to take down Florida
09/15/2015 04:54 PM
LEXINGTON — If records are made to be broken, then streaks are meant to be ended, and that’s exactly what the Kentucky Wildcats did with its 26-22 road win over South Carolina on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The victory snapped UK’s 22-game road losing streak that extended all the way back to 2010, including 20 consecutive road loses in the SEC.
“It was a very big step for us,” head coach Mark Stoops said during his weekly press conference, “because like I said, I was just very proud of the way the team handled the adversity in that environment with some young players playing. I just think the way it unfolded … against an SEC opponent on the road after the adversity of the first possession and going down 7-0 and the adversity to have the momentum totally flip on you in the second half and have to overcome that and get a win says a lot about our team and the mental toughness and focus we have and the confidence.”
And that confidence is helping the Wildcats prepare to snap another record losing streak this Saturday against the Florida Gators — a team Kentucky has not defeated in 28 long years.
“We have a great opportunity this week against a very good team that has beaten us for a very long time and we have to go do something about it,” Stoops said. “We have to continue to improve fundamentally and do the little things.”
Kentucky will need a complete-game performance in all three aspects of the game to pull off the much-overdue win against the Gators, something the Cats failed to do during the second half at South Carolina for the second straight week.
After jumping out to a 24-7 halftime lead (coincidentally, the same intermission score Kentucky held in its season opener against UL-Lafayette), the UK offense sputtered to a complete halt in the third quarter, stalling for an abysmal two yards of total offense, zero first downs, and zero points.
Fortunately, the defense arrived to save the day, forcing the Gamecocks to settle for field goals in the redzone, posting Kentucky’s only points of the second half on a Denzil Ware scoop-and-score from a botched USC two-point conversion, and sealing the victory with a Chris Westry interception to end the Gamecocks’ final possession.
Stoops admitted the team has plenty of issues to work on before facing Florida and the rest of its schedule but added he’s proud of the team’s resiliency in overcoming adversity.
“That is partly the reason you have to be a good football team to overcome some bad things,” Stoops said. “That is why we went so long with losing because we were not good enough to overcome momentum shifts like that.”
Click below to watch KSTV’s discussion on why the South Carolina win was a turning point for the UK Football program and the needed confidence boost to take down Florida on Saturday.