Well, it was fun while it lasted, right? Kentucky played a great first half, and went in to the locker room with a 17-7 lead. The second half was all South Carolina’s, though. QB Connor Shaw found his receivers, RB Marcus Lattimore found running lanes, and USC’s pass rush found Kentucky’s backfield. It was a valiant effort, but the Cats just couldn’t finish the job against the nation’s sixth-ranked team.
Injury Report: QB Max Smith (ankle), S Dakotah Tyler (knee), OG Zach West (shoulder) and RB Raymond Sanders (knee) will all be evaluated tomorrow.
-Freshman QB Jalen Whitlow was the big story of the night. He got the call after QB Max Smith suffered an ankle injury on the first drive of the game. Whitlow, a true freshman, showed plenty of poise keeping the Wildcats in the game for the entire first half against one of the nation’s best defenses. Phillips was encouraged with Whitlow’s performance, but says he missed a ton of motions and shifts that contributed to USC’s seven sacks. Whitlow wasn’t great, but was a little better than “not god-awful” after all.
-QB Max Smith’s status is uncertain at this point. The X-rays he had on his ankle was negative, and he will be evaluated further tomorrow. If Smith’s unable to go for a long period of time, freshman QB Patrick Towles’ redshirt year may be reevaluated. According to Phillips, that will only happen if Towles will be asked to play a significant role, otherwise they’ve shelve him for the year.
-Kentucky’s defense showed a lot of heart to start the game by forcing some three-and-outs, and disrupting Shaw’s rhythm. Eventually, though, they started to wear down when the offense couldn’t sustain drives. The unit seems to be getting better each week, and are much better than the terrible bunch we saw against Louisville. It’s not coincidence that it has happened after a little bit of a scheme change. Getting DE/LB Taylor Wyndham on the field more was undoubtedly the right move, as he’s made plays every week. DC Rick Minter is happy with the progress they’ve made, and hopes to continue it going forward.
-For the most part, freshman CB Cody Quinn played an outstanding game opposite Cartier Rice and he looks like he will hold that spot of the rest of the season. With Quinn’s emergence, CB Martavius Neloms started the game at safety, the position he played all of last year. Neloms’ is very physical, as you can see from his exceptional punt coverage this year, making the safety position a better fit for him.
-At the end of the first half, Kentucky looked like it would extend its lead. After some terrible time management and miscommunication, the Cats came up empty on the drive and wouldn’t score again in the game. “We missed a huge opportunity. You’ve got to get some points out of that,” Phillips said. “They took the momentum and we never got it back.”
-One of the most encouraging things about this team is the young guys making plays. It’s a different young guy every week, and this week it was WR A.J. Legree. We can see why the coaches gushed about Legree and Sweat early in the year. They both have shown playmaking ability that should excite the fan base about the future of the program.