It wasn’t pretty at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night, but Kentucky will happily take the road wins when they can get them.
In the 16-10 victory, Kentucky improved to 4-0 on the season and now has a couple of SEC wins in their back pocket. However, the game against South Carolina was a slog, and the home underdog made Kentucky earn the victory.
These are the plays that got us to the final score in Columbia.
Kavosiey Smoke gets loose
For the season, Kentucky has had issues finding ways to get Kavosiey Smoke rolling on the ground. The redshirt junior has some huge big-play ability, but the Wildcats and new offensive coordinator Liam Coen have just been unable to unlock that in the first month of the season.
Some answers were found against South Carolina.
On the first drive of the game, Smoke’s second carry of the night came on a nifty play design and ended in a 15-yard touchdown to give the Wildcats a lead they would not relinquish.
For the game, Smoke provided 50 rushing yards on nine carries with a 55.56 percent success rate and a pair of rushes over 10-plus yards. If Smoke can provide some chunk runs, it could open a ton of opportunities for this Kentucky offense.
Short-yardage defense make stand
Following the first three-and-out of the game for Kentucky’s offense, South Carolina got the ball with great field position with 10:17 remaining in the second quarter. However, the Gamecocks found themselves with a fourth-and-one at the Kentucky 47.
Shane Beamer decided to roll the dice. DeAndre Square slammed the door shut.
On the snap, nose tackle Marquan McCall gets a great jump and scores a win against the center. This blow knocks the play off schedule just a bit, and that is all DeAndre Square needs. The linebacker scrapes from his Will spot and meets the running back in the hole. The senior delivers a picture-perfect tackle with leg drive that results in a huge stop at a big moment.
Quietly, the Detroit native is playing at an All-SEC level. Square’s 7.5 run stuffs (run plays stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage) leads the team. The veteran has been the linchpin to Kentucky’s run defense this year, and he played a big part in holding South Carolina to just 58 rushing yards.
Key stop leads to points
In the fourth quarter, Kentucky again found itself in a huge fourth down on defense. Following Josh Ali’s second lost fumble of the game, the Gamecocks moved the ball to Kentucky’s 40 and decided to roll the dice once again trailing 13-7.
Brad White’s defense produced another huge stop.
South Carolina uses a pre-snap motion to determine if Kentucky is in man coverage or not. Once the Gamecocks realize that the Wildcats are going to a zone, Luke Doty decides to target Dakereon Joyner on a quick out route. However, redshirt sophomore nickel Jalen Geiger is in position and delivers a blow.
The ball is dropped, but a catch still wouldn’t have moved the chains. This stop quickly set the table for Kentucky’s offense who would go 51 yards in nine plays to kick a field goal to stretch the lead to two possessions with just 4:26 left in the game.
Last week, Kentucky did not play complementary football. This exchange in the fourth quarter was one of the best moments of complementary football this season.