The first big test for the Kentucky football team is here. Cats vs Gamecocks under the lights. Many don’t give the Cats a chance with leading tackler Jordan Jones sidelined with a shoulder injury. As big as a loss as that it is, I expect Eli Brown to play well in his absence. Here are four more reasons that you should feel confident heading into tonight’s game against the Gamecocks.
Stephen Johnson is a Gamer
Time after time Stephen Johnson has proved his worth to the Kentucky football team. The senior quarterback wins games, plain and simple. Since taking over as the starting quarterback Johnson has led the team to an 9-4 record. It may not always be pretty but Johnson has performed time and time again under immense pressure. Johnson’s demeanor is infectious; as he goes, so does the rest of the team. With Stephen Johnson at quarterback, the Cats have a chance. Johnson will need to connect on a few big plays to keep the Cats in this game. Look for Eddie Gran to open up the playbook in the team’s first SEC test.
The Running Game will Produce
After so much success on the ground last year it has been hard to watch the Kentucky offense struggle to get it going this year. Benny Snell Jr. did not look like himself in the first half of the Eastern Kentucky game. The sophomore running back picked it up in the second half rushing for 103 yards on 19 carries.
In the previous three match-ups against South Carolina, the Kentucky offense has controlled the line of scrimmage, rushing for over 200 yards in each contest. That statistic bodes well for the Cats tonight as the South Carolina defense has shown deficiencies in run defense in the team’s first two games. With another week of practice behind them, the Kentucky offensive line’s continuity continues to grow. Success in the running game is vital to a Kentucky win.
Depth on Defense
Matt House’s defense has been the strength of the team in this young season. The Cats have not allowed any big plays while forcing turnovers in each of the first two games. Jake Bentley provides a difficult challenge as the sophomore quarterback is one of the SEC’s best. To pick up a win in Columbia the Kentucky defense must continue to force turnovers. It starts up front; the defensive line has to get pressure on Bentley. If he is able to sit in the pocket comfortably he will dissect the Kentucky secondary. Courtney Love has improved dramatically at middle linebacker, he must have a big game to help out Eli Brown. Mike Edwards has quietly played outstanding football in the first two games. His leadership will be key to a victory as well.
Three Years in a Row
The Cats are confident. In three consecutive years Kentucky has beaten South Carolina. Each year is different, as is this year, nonetheless this team knows what it has to do to pick up a big time win on the road. I expect big games from Stephen Johnson, Garrett Johnson, Josh Allen, Mike Edwards, and maybe even Lynn Bowden if Gran can get the ball to him in space. We’ll see if it’s enough for the Cats to steal a road victory at Williams Brice Stadium.