The way the season ended, it’s easy for fans to forget that Kentucky’s defense won the Cats a couple of games at the start of the 2017 season. The biggest of those wins, arguably the most impressive of the season, was Kentucky’s fourth consecutive victory over South Carolina.
The blackout at Williams-Brice Stadium was hyped to be South Carolina’s return to glory, all thanks to Will Muschamp. After an awful start that featured an interception and a one-play Gamecock touchdown drive, Kentucky’s defense absolutely dominated.
The Cats held the Cocks to only 54 rushing yards, they picked off Jake Bentley twice and South Carolina converted just 3-of-12 third downs. Mark Stoops’ defense saved their best work for fourth down.
Trailing 14-6, Muschamp left the halftime locker room with an aggressive gameplan in hopes to recapture lost momentum. After forcing a UK three-and-out, South Carolina went for it on fourth down in no-man’s land near midfield. Derrick Baity stuffed the run for no gain. Kentucky’s offense responded with a made field goal to put South Carolina in the danger zone.
Desperate for a score, South Carolina methodically marched down to the UK two-yard line in 12 plays. Twice Bentley completed passes on third down to keep the drive alive and put the Cats on their heels. The third time was the charm for Kentucky.
On third down Eli Brown attacked the scrambling Bentley, stopping him one yard short of the goal line. Brown was injured on the hit. Down to UK’s third and final option, Boogie Watson was inserted at Will linebacker for the first time in his career. The redshirt freshman scraped to the outside to help Baity make the tackle behind the line of scrimmage. The biggest play of Boogie’s young career silenced the sold out stadium.
The goal line stand deflated the crowd and defined Kentucky’s hard-nosed victory at South Carolina. The Cats could not consistently contain SEC offenses in 2017, but their performance in Columbia could be a preview of what’s to come from the veteran group in 2018.