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Kentucky limps into the bye week with another frustrating road loss, falls to South Carolina 24-7

© Jeff Blake | USATSI

© Jeff Blake | USATSI

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for the Kentucky football team.

After beating South Carolina five consecutive seasons, the Wildcats walked out of Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday evening with their tails tucked between their legs in an embarrassing 24-7 loss.

On the day, the Gamecocks managed 387 total yards compared to Kentucky’s 212, including just 90 through the air from Sawyer Smith on 11-32 passing and one interception.

On the ground, the Wildcats totaled 115 yards, led by 65 yards and a touchdown by Chris Rodriguez and 44 yards by Lynn Bowden.

While South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski only managed 140 yards on 15-27 passing, the Gamecocks managed 247 rushing yards, including two 100-plus yard performances from Tavien Feaster (107 yards, two TD) and Rico Dowdle (102 yards and one TD).

So how did the loss unfold?

On the game’s very first drive, Ryan Hilinski dinked-and-dunked his way down the field to put the Gamecocks in scoring position with little-to-no resistance. After picking up 48 yards through the air on 4-6 passing, Tavien Feaster punched it in for a two-yard touchdown run.

And then to follow it up on Kentucky’s first offensive drive, quarterback Sawyer Smith threw an opening-drive interception, his third straight turnover to start the game in as many games and his fifth pick of the season.

Like we saw last week against Mississippi State, the offense’s struggles to start the game proved to tell the story of the entire game for the unit.

After crossing into Kentucky territory for a second consecutive drive, true freshman cornerback Quandre Mosely sparked the defense with a near-pick at the line of scrimmage, eventually leading to a 43-yard punt for the Gamecocks. Instead of using this to flip the script and overcome the early mistake like we saw in Columbia two years ago, the offense failed to hold up their end of the bargain.

After going three-and-out on the next offensive series, Max Duffy’s deep punt bounced off a Gamecock returner’s back, allowing Kentucky to recover the ball at their own 39. But instead of flipping momentum back their direction, the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs in four plays.

The defense once again found success by forcing an immediate three-and-out against USC, though two brutal misses from Smith to Ahmad Wagner and Lynn Bowden led to yet another three-and-out on offense. To close out the first quarter, Kentucky had picked up just one first down – a 13-yard pass to Bowden on the second play of the game – 37 total yards, and zero points.

To open the second quarter, the Wildcat defense bent, but failed to break, allowing the Gamecocks a field goal score after a 10-play, 62-yard drive.

On the other side of the ball, Kentucky managed yet another three-and-out on three questionable throws by Smith. After rolling right and missing Josh Ali on a first-down throw, Smith missed a wide-open Ahmad Wagner for a first down and opted for a two-yard screen to Ali. A missed ball to Allen Dailey on third and long sparked a 0-5 start on third down conversions, pushing the two-game number to 1-17 at the time and 3-27 by game’s end. Despite Smith’s fairly obvious struggles, the Kentucky offense ran nine straight passing plays down 10-0.

In need of a change of scenery, Lynn Bowden jumped in the Kentucky backfield and managed an impressive 20-yard run out of the Wildcat, ultimately leading the team down to the UK 46. Despite having a wide open run lane in fake punt territory, Duffy instead decided to pin the Gamecocks at their own 10, hoping for a quick three-and-out to give the Wildcats another offensive opportunity before halftime.

After forcing a tough third down deep in their own territory, Hilinski found USC star receiver Bryan Edwards for an eight-yard gain and first down conversion before hitting Dowdle for a 23-yard gain taken all the way to the South Carolina 46. When it looked like the Wildcats would likely go into the half down 17-0, Boogie Watson came away with a clutch six-yard sack, followed by two quick incompletions to end the half.

The Wildcats went into the break down 10-0, but it certainly felt like they were down 30-0 with zero consistency or rhythm on offense and 225 yards allowed on defense. Kentucky managed just 78 total yards (12 passing yards), two first downs, 0-6 on third down conversions, and zero trips to the red zone.

To start the second half, things didn’t get any better. After a 37-yard return by Bowden, Smith hit Clevan Thomas in the slot for a two-yard gain, followed by an incomplete pass to Ali. On third and long, fumbled the ball on a strip-sack, giving the ball back to the Gamecocks.

On the very next play, Dowdle found running room on the left side of the field and took it to the house for an easy touchdown score, pushing South Carolina’s lead to 17-0.

Would the Wildcats respond with urgency on offense? Unfortunately not, as the team went three-and-out yet again following a one-yard reception by Bowden, a five-yard pickup by AJ Rose, and an incomplete pass to Justin Rigg on third and 6.

On defense, Kentucky forced another three-and-out of their own, allowing just six yards on two rushes, followed by an impressive pass breakup by sophomore linebacker Deandre Square. With a touchback on the punt, the Wildcats would take back over on their own 20.

Would the Wildcats respond with urgency on offense this time around? Nope. After a three-yard gain by Chris Rodriguez – his first carry since the season-opener – on first down, Bowden managed a six-yard reception on second only to lose those same six yards on a fumble in the backfield on third. Another failed third down conversion.

With the Kentucky offense sputtering, the defense continued to find its groove, forcing yet another three-and-out on back-to-back tackles for loss on second and third down. After a quiet start to the season, Boogie Watson managed his second sack of the game.

While a nine-yard gain on third down ended Kentucky’s first down and third down conversion streak, two penalties pushed the Wildcats back ten yards to spark a 3rd and 20 from their own 21. After throwing the ball away and settling for the punt, USC was called for a horsecollar tackle on the sack attempt, giving the offense a new set of downs. In an unprecedented turn of events, Kentucky converted on a second third down conversion following a 26-yard completion to, once again, Ahmad Wagner. Unfortunately for the 6-foot-7 star receiver, his impressive sideline grab would result in no points for the offense following another turnover on downs in South Carolina territory.

After another impressive display on defense that led to just 13 yards on five plays for South Carolina – Kentucky’s eighth forced punt of the day – the Wildcat offense followed it up with yet another three-and-out.

USC with a three-and-out, UK with another punt. Rewind, repeat.

On the evening, Kentucky racked up a whopping nine three-and-outs or turnovers on downs, along with two turnovers.

The clock struck midnight on the Kentucky defense midway through the fourth quarter, with the unit giving up seven consecutive positive yardage plays and a 19-yard touchdown run to bring the score to 24-0.

After picking up more bumps and bruises on the offense’s next drive, the injured Smith was officially replaced by Bowden in the backfield, leading to a five-play, 84-yard touchdown drive. In Kentucky’s lone scoring drive of the day, the Wildcats saw gains of nine, 44, three, 26, and two on the touchdown run by Rodriguez. 24-7 Wildcats, which would end up being the game’s final score.

With the team’s third consecutive loss, Kentucky moves to 2-3 on the year and 0-3 in conference play.

The good news? The Wildcats will have a bye week to regroup and get healthy before taking on the likes of Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, UT-Martin, and Louisville to close out the year. Despite a 2-3 start, Kentucky could still managed to scrape together eight wins and an impressive bowl.

The bad news? Kentucky has regressed in each of the last three weeks, with the offense showing zero semblance of consistency or urgency. And frankly, the unit hasn’t given much reason for optimism. Sawyer Smith is fighting through pain – and struggling mightily in the process – while the run game has failed to impress with the game still in reach.

After breaking through the 100-yard barrier against Mississippi State last weekend, AJ Rose again struggled to find holes and break tackles, finishing with just 33 yards on ten carries. Max Duffy dominated at the punter position, but the fact that he was needed nine times is a major, major issue. The defense managed three crucial sacks, but the pass rush wasn’t nearly effective enough to make Hilinski feel even slightly uncomfortable in the pocket throughout the game. With weapons such as Kash Daniel, Deandre Square, Chris Oats, and Boogie Watson at linebacker, along with other defensive line standouts such as Josh Paschal, Quinton Bohanna, T.J. Carter, and Calvin Taylor, the run defense – for the most part – was horrendous.

The season isn’t over, but in a game Kentucky looked to find answers, they left the field with more questions than ever.


Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

47 Comments for Kentucky limps into the bye week with another frustrating road loss, falls to South Carolina 24-7

  1. CopenhagenCat
    12:47 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    Thank God it’s a bye week us U.K. fans can actually watch something worth watching. Or if your like me just keep playing cornhole your not missing anything during a U.K. game.

    • bacnine
      4:40 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      It’s time Barnyard gives Stoops another contract extension and a $500K raise.

    • bacnine
      7:42 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      What happened to KAVOSIEYSMOKE? Why did he not play in the 2nd half?

    • kyracer
      8:45 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      Dick Gabriel on the radio broadcast reported Smoke was “under the weather” and taking fluids at halftime. Smoke had 2 first-quarter carries for 7 yards. That’s it.

  2. Bigbluefish73
    12:52 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    You gorgot to mention the complete give up at the end of the first half. Who runs the clock out at the end of the half down 10?

    • Smyrna_Cat
      1:13 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      Ummm … UK?

  3. Tango98
    1:09 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    We’re a 6-6 or 7-5 team at this point. We looked terrible today and the last couple weeks. Still love the staff but question the calls, especially on the offensive side. Need to keep the rest of the season respectable to keep the recruiting class together. That’s really what I’m pulling for at this point. Go!Cats!

    • BluKudzu
      7:05 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      6-6? 7-5?

      You are dreaming or on drugs.

      What you saw last night was the game where the loser gets to battle it out for last place in the SEC east, against either Vandy or the Vols.

      We played a very bad team with a very bad coach and got humiliated in just about every phase of the game.

      If our coach thinks Lynn Bowden is the answer, due to his touchdown drive at the end of the 4th qtr, he should be fired. Bowden ran that series against a bad team’s 3rd stringers.

      Good news: only 7 games to sit through left. Bad news: 7 more beat downs left.

      10 and 3 to 3 and 10 in one season.

      Yo Mark: Where we going to go? 4 million dollars. I think you should have some idea.

    • 4everUKblue
      8:09 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      We’ve got a good kicker.

    • catsfanintexas
      8:45 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      Guess u didn’t watch the Florida game

    • kjd
      8:17 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      Tango: try a 3 win team.

    • bacnine
      8:36 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      I think Stoops needs another contract extension and a raise. If we don’t UT or Vandy might snap him up.

    • 4everUKblue
      11:58 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      catsfanintexas, first of all I was talking about Duffy but I wouldn’t expect you to get it, after all you obviously didn’t follow the team last season since you think it was attributable to luck. Seriously look into that free education.

    • 4everUKblue
      12:00 pm September 29, 2019 Permalink

      bacnine, you’ve posted that same exact comment on every thread since last night. Do you have any other material or is that all you’ve got?

    • bacnine
      1:02 pm September 29, 2019 Permalink

      4everUKblue, Do you know the difference between a punter and kicker? I will be glad to explain the difference.

    • bacnine
      8:42 pm September 29, 2019 Permalink

      4everUKblue It is comforting to know that KSR has a Barney Fife on staff. Are you the posting deputy sheriff ? Glad you are keeping an eye on me. Jezz, tired of your mindless bumbling dribble. So tell me Barney do you still need me to explain the difference between a punter and a kicker

  4. Smyrna_Cat
    1:13 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    “Despite having a wide open run lane in fake punt territory, Duffy instead decided to pin the Gamecocks at their own 10” … true, but it is hard to blame Duffy for that. It is much easier to see the open lane on the tv as compared to the field. Duffy had a good game.

  5. Big Sexy
    2:26 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    I’ve heard a lot of complaining after last weeks game. I can only imagine how bad it’s going to be this week. Kentucky lost 14 starters from last year. They’re rebuilding. This isn’t an elite talent school where they have great coaching and can simply reload. While Stoops is a great recruiter, let’s face it, he’s just an OK coach. Seems like everyone expected them to be a 9-10 win team from here on out. The really bad seasons are behind us now IMO, but we still have some mediocre years ahead of us.

    • CatsFan92
      3:37 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      This may be a bad season my dude. Just bad luck with injuries.

    • just a guy
      4:56 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      I agree with everything you said. The fans however listened to Mark Stoops tell us this was NOT a rebuilding year, and 10-3 was no fluke. Now, Wilson going down was a huge blow, but he wasn’t a good enough QB to go from expecting a 10-3 season to being 2-3 going into bye. I think Stoops underestimated the impact of losing a top 5 pick on D along with 11 other NFL signees. I agree this was always gonna be a rebuilding year, I just don’t think Stoops thought so.

    • CatsfaninFL
      7:27 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      This right here. Exactly. We COULD have done well this year, and I think the first 2.75 games showed that. But we are thin and young this year. Injuries piled up and we no longer have teams overlooking us. This has become a rebuilding year, but if the people calling for Stoops head are kneejerk buffoons or trolls.

    • BluKudzu
      11:03 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      So….who was responsible for fielding a team, too young, or too thin on the field to play?

      Thought that was what his redshirt strategy was to address.

      Years 1-5 yes, I agree. But by now after all the millions poured in to the program in facility upgrades, equipment upgrades, training upgrades, salaries, marketing etc., why should the coach not be held responsible for such a pathetic display?

      Fans should expect more and demand more from one of the highest compensated coaching staffs in NCAA football.

    • catsarerunnin
      1:05 pm September 29, 2019 Permalink

      Oh my BluDudzu is really pissy.

  6. bbn606
    6:56 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    That’s a game that will cause you to lose half of your recruiting class.

    • makeitstop
      9:42 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      Yea – the last two are. I will be stunned if we don’t hv a mass de-commitment. If they had an answer and won the next 7, or even 6 of 7, u could make a case for “missing a guy like u to go to the Sugar Bowl” but this staff has no clue where to go from here and unless Wood is the answer, or Gilmore, it’s a losing season, and that’s the end of the recruits.

    • Trueblue44
      11:23 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      Lmao that one game, or hell even 2, will do it? Y’all are killing me

    • bluecorvettecat
      12:07 pm September 29, 2019 Permalink

      Major decommits comming

  7. John Capilari
    7:18 am September 29, 2019 Permalink


    • bluecorvettecat
      12:03 pm September 29, 2019 Permalink

      7-5. Dreaming. 5-7 or 4-8
      UT , Vandy,yes Vandy , ARK, of course Ga and better believe UL
      Stoops good recruiter terrible game coach
      This year will set us way back to where we were in recruiting
      The Ky QB recruit- watch and weep

  8. gacat123
    8:02 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    We knew this team would take a step back from last year but not this far. This was a game from the 2012-2015 era. It appears that the injuries to Wilson and Robinson cut out the heart and soul of the team and others have not yet stepped up to fill the leadership void. Stoops cannot say/admit such until the season is over. We do have talent all over the field, we have seen flashes of such form time so I am not worried about the lack of talent. What I am and we should all be concerned about is leadership and the development of such as it’s not an overnight thing. We can still be a 7-5 team…that’s going to be a stretch unless we get some stuff fixed during the off week.

    • bluecorvettecat
      12:13 pm September 29, 2019 Permalink

      No decision for Mitch
      Stoops payout outlandish
      Top 20 $$$$$ pay Stoops
      Extensions – half million $ pay raise
      Stoops has sucker punched the program and we are stuck with him-

  9. Bourbon-n-Coke
    8:10 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    BiG Problem, the team has given up and stopped playing for Stoops since the Florida 2nd half debacle. They are likely tired of playing their asses off for him to “f” it up with his ultra-conservative and overly predictable coaching! This isn’t getting any better anytime soon- going to be even uglier as we move forward. Might be decision time at the end of the season Mitch.

    • Bluenblood
      8:26 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      Yessiree. Plenty of blame to go around and it all started at the Florida giveaway loss.

    • IndianaSucks
      10:56 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      Public Service Announcement: Don’t ruin bourbon by mixing it with Coke

  10. gasman01
    8:10 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    At this point, my concern is hanging on to the top recruits we have. After watching the last 2 games, why would they still want to come here. As for the remainder of this year, let’s just hope we can finish 6-6.

    • Bluehender
      9:42 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

      That’s a valid concern

  11. ChetSteadmansSalisburySteak
    8:21 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    OH NO! WE SUCK AGAIN!!!!!!

  12. kyracer
    8:39 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    Two weeks ago, even without Terry Wilson, it seemed 6 of the last 7 games were winnable. Now, just getting to 6 wins and a bowl appears far-fetched.

  13. UKfanman01
    8:57 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe Smith had a lost fumble too

  14. makeitstop
    9:51 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    Who leaves a guy in to throw that much when it’s obvious he can’t throw?? I don’t know if Smith just sucks that bad or is hurt that bad, it’s hard to say but either way if he’s the only option, who is that a reflection on? They ran Hoak off – maybe he isn’t any better but if u think Woods can’t do it after 3 years in the system wouldn’t u try and hang onto the guys u hv or find another? We act like it’s unforeseeable to get a QB hurt in the SEC. u better hv a deep QB room. It’s ur damn job! But I don’t think a good QB would want to come here unless he has a tie to the program. That’s in Gran. In fact last nites performance is the worst I can remember in a half century of bountiful choices to choose from. Talk won’t fix it. Someone has to go.

  15. cathatter
    10:01 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    but Matt says Stoops gets paid lots of money – so obviously he knows more about the game than any of the fans!

  16. gasman01
    10:26 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    I truly think Smith’s shoulder is in bad shape. He made some mistakes in the Florida game, but he threw the ball with some zip on it. He is just lobbing the ball up for grabs now. I wish D. Clark would have stayed.. He would be starting now.

    • bluecorvettecat
      12:18 pm September 29, 2019 Permalink

      Bowl- hope not- we will be disgraced again
      How do you get bowl if all you beat is losing records and mid-majors

    • TOMCATS1990
      3:21 pm September 29, 2019 Permalink

      Yeah his shoulder and or wrist are hurting him. Kid has a cannon for a arm and last night looked like a average High School QB throwing it around. Hopefully 2 weeks to heal will give him the time to get right.

  17. blueblood80
    11:19 am September 29, 2019 Permalink

    What happened to the best OL in the SEC, and that stout DL? There are no injuries there. They have become no shows. ALL recrruiting momentum is lost. KROGER Field will be half full the rest of the year. Recruits will decommit.A mediocre bowl is all that is possible. What a shame. Terry Wilson was more important than most knew….