Ah, yes. The South Carolina Gamecocks. Such a pleasant Southeastern Conference foe, eh? Between Steve Spurrier being head coach, the fact that the team plays in a stadium nicknamed “The Cock Pit,” and the sense of self-entitlement in the fan base which often depicts their team on an Alabama-type level despite the program having never actually won very much, it’s safe to say South Carolina is a little… off for Kentucky fans. Sure there are bigger rivals for Big Blue Nation to be concerned with, but they are an SEC East opponent, and that alone is enough reason to despise the Gamecocks.
USC and UK actually aren’t that far off in terms of their all-time history. South Carolina boasts a 566-544-44 (.510) record, while UK sports a 580-582-44 (.499) record. Makes that self-entitlement we so often get from those Cock fans a little more humorous, doesn’t it? What’s more; UK has two conference titles. USC has two conference titles (one from the ACC). Until very recently when Spurrier took over, South Carolina football was nearly a spitting image of Kentucky’s program. And even though Mark Stoops isn’t a proven Hall of Fame coach like his counterpart, that should still give a little hope that programs can be turned into winners even without storied history.
Standing at 1-3 on the season having just suffered a humiliating defeat on the road at Florida where the team could barely move the ball against the Gators, Joker Phillips and his team rolled back into Lexington with the task of facing No. 6 South Carolina. Obviously there was talk of “the last time in Commonwealth” ringing throughout the buildup to the game — of course referencing the 2010 upset over the 10th-ranked Gamecocks 31-28 that included a dramatic 2nd half comeback.
Would this game result in a similar outcome? If you asked most fans, the answer was probably a resounding no. The team was disappointing, there was a lack of any kind of excitement, and the play calling was questionable at best. Just 50,000 fans were in attendance right around this time last year, and much to everybody’s surprise — we got a ballgame.
Kentucky put the first points on the board in thanks to a 16-play, 94-yard drive that led to a Craig McIntosh field goal. That drive began at the 1-yard line following a USC turnover when the Gamecocks were just inches away from a touchdown. The UK defense made a stand inside the 10 yard line and stopped four straight rushing attempts short of the goal line to start the series. The 1st quarter ended in dramatic fashion with the Wildcats clearly possessing some form of momentum.
South Carolina answered with a touchdown in the 2nd quarter with a big chunk of a 64-yard drive coming on a 37-yard pass from Connor Shaw to Rory Anderson. That made it 7-3 Gamecocks but the Cats came back with a one-two punch… Jalen Whitlow led an 8-play, 67-yard drive after he rushed 8-yards for a touchdown to put the Cats back on top. Following a USC three-and-out and a blocked punt, that set up the Cats with a 1st-and-10 inside the 40 yard line. Then five plays and a Raymond Sanders 10-yard scamper later, Kentucky was leading the 6th-ranked team in the land by a score of 17-7.
Halftime happened, things were looking great, then South Carolina rattled off 31 unanswered points and that was that. In the 2nd half Kentucky never had a series last more than six plays, and the offense finished out with two interceptions on the day.
You probably remember most of the headlines from the game going something like: “A Tale of Two Halves,” because that is exactly what it was. Upset city turned to nightmare.
The innagural meeting between Kentucky and South Carolina occurred in 1937 in a game the Wildcats won 27-7. The two teams would play again in 1978 which resulted in a 14-14 tie, and again in 1981 which gave the Gamecocks a 28-14 victory. After those three non-conference meetings over the course of 44 years, South Carolina has joined the SEC and now the two teams have played yearly since 1992.
In the early stages, Kentucky was able to win three of the first four meetings, oddly enough by a combined score of 78-79. Following that, the Wildcats would answer with just two more victories in the next 13 years until the streak was snapped in 2010. In all, South Carolina owns 16-7-1 record over Kentucky and in the last three games USC has won by an average score of 40-17.
Artose Pinner (UK, 2001-02) — It was back-to-back losses for the Cats, but running back Artose Pinner is not to blame, as he piled up 113 yards in 2001 and 160 yards in 2002. The team was in a world of hurt in these two years under Guy Morriss, but Pinner was one bright spot in a season that was pretty bleak, and another that saw Kentucky looking for its third coach in four years.
Mike Hartline (UK, 2010) — Perhaps the biggest key to the 2010 upset was Mike Hartline. A forever-undervalued quarterback at Kentucky, Hartline led a passing attack that torched the South Carolina secondary for 349 yards and 4 touchdowns while completing 32 of his 42 passing attempts. It was a marvelous outing as the UK ground game could barely move the ball, amassing 52 yards in total. To be that one-dimensional and still have that much success against a 10th-ranked team is very impressive.
Marcus Lattimore (USC, 2010-12) — For three straight years Marcus Lattimore burned Kentucky. Whether it was his powerful rushing attack or sneaking out from the backfield on a passing route, Lattimore single-handedly owned Kentucky more than any Gamecocks player in the last handful of years. In 2010 he rushed for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns and caught 4 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown. In 2011 he rushed for 102 yards. And in 2012 he rushed for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns. Aside from Georgia, there is no other team Lattimore played better against in his three-year career.
BIGGEST MOMENT FOR UK
It was 1st-and-10 at the Kentucky 20-yard line. The Wildcats had given the Gamecocks all they could handle and more. Trailing by a field goal, Spurrier and his offense constructed a late-game drive to get his team in range for the tie… But that wasn’t enough. The Old Ball Coach got greedy and went straight for the W with just seconds left to play. Stephen Garcia dropped back and uncorked a bomb to the right corner of the end zone, hurled in the direction of USC wide out Lamar Scruggs. But Kentucky corner back Anthony Mosley was on the receiving end of that pass. Ball game.
The interception sealed Kentucky’s first victory ever over Steve Spurrier and ended a ten-game losing streak to South Carolina. It also induced pandemonium in Commonwealth Stadium, leading to a storming of the field, and one of the fondest memories of the football program in his time as a student for yours truly.
Anthony Mosley isn’t a name that will resonate with too many people outside Kentucky football. But he is a legend for that one play.
Kentucky has a lot to do to beat South Carolina again. You know good as well since that upset Steve Spurrier has his team on its A-game every time they play Kentucky. Just look at the 54-3 final score in 2011. If you don’t see that as revenge I don’t know what is. The Cats aren’t going to sneak up on the Cocks again, so it’s just going to take good old fashioned athleticism and coaching.
Fortunately for Kentucky the latter has arrived, however the former has yet to develop. As it is with many of the teams in the SEC, it is going to take a few years before the Stoops Effect pays dividends. It just seems an upset before that time comes is unlikely to happen against South Carolina more than anybody.