Almost everybody picked South Carolina to beat Kentucky tonight, and in retrospect, that’s the best thing that could have happened. Fueled by “disrespect,” the Cats responded, beating the Gamecocks for the fourth straight year, 23-13. After a horrendous start, the defense stood tall and, as always, Stephen Johnson remained steady. It was a huge, huge win.
There’s a lot to go over with this game, but here are my five immediate reactions.
What a performance by the defense
Admit it, when Deebo Samuel scored 13 seconds into the game, you were worried. When Skai Moore intercepted Stephen Johnson’s pass on the next series, you panicked. When the Cats fumbled in the Wildcat on the one after that, you felt yourself saying “That’s so Kentucky football.” Well, thankfully, the team did not. With three years of beating the Gamecocks under their belt, Kentucky stood tall, holding South Carolina to only 6 points and 6 first downs in the first half. Even though they rarely got a break in the second half, it was more of the same. Based on pregame hype, Jake Bentley might as well have been Peyton Manning, and even though he put up 300 yards, they only resulted in 13 points. That’s one hell of an accomplishment for a defense that was without one of its stars in Jordan Jones. Kudos to Eli Brown for a hell of a performance, despite cramps near the end of the game.
Auto-Mac is the real MVP
South Carolina’s kicker missed three field goals and an extra point, whereas Austin MacGinnis hit three field goals to help Kentucky maintain the lead. Have you ever felt more grateful for Auto-Mac?
UK played with a chip on their shoulder
The best thing that could have happened to Kentucky this week was everyone picking South Carolina. Vince Marrow ran into the media room after the game and thanked reporters for picking the Gamecocks. In his postgame remarks, Mark Stoops said the team felt disrespected, especially when the South Carolina captains refused to shake Kentucky’s captains’ hands before the game. Derrick Baity even suggested that the Gamecocks messed with UK’s headsets to disrupt communication in the first half.
The chip on UK’s shoulder showed tonight, and I hope it only gets sharper with Florida coming into town.
I hate to hear the news about Deebo Samuel
Samuel went down with an injury in the third quarter, and after the game, it was announced he broke his leg and is out for the season. That’s horrible news for an incredible athlete. Thoughts out to him in hopes for a speedy recovery.
Stephen Johnson is my quarterback
Johnson’s numbers were not flashy, but as always, he steadily led the Cats to victory. As he’s done time and time before, Johnson kept his cool in the face of a very loud crowd, marching the Cats down the field in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Watching him hype up the UK section after the game was a special moment:
Stephen Johnson hyping the crowd after beating South Carolina. Working his way into folklore. pic.twitter.com/N8LI6iEBMa
– Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) September 17, 2017
I like my team. Bring on the Gators.