[caption id="attachment_207810" align="alignnone" width="2417"] Mark Zerof / USA Today
The Cats are back to .500 on the season and in the SEC East race with a big win over South Carolina in Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky held South Carolina's offense to only 10 points in the game and the offense did the rest to get the 17-10 win
for the third consecutive victory over the Gamecocks. Kentucky hadn't won three straight games over a non-Vanderbilt SEC opponent since 1959, so kiss that streak goodbye! We can officially say UK is ahead of Wanna-Be-USC in the conference.
What do you say we do an even 10 takeaways from the game and then call it a night because it's already past my bedtime. I'll number each one so I don't short you or overwork myself. Here we go...
1.) Kentucky put pressure on South Carolina's quarterback.
Getting to the QB has been an enormous problem for the Cats this season. The pass rush has been, well, nonexistent. There's not a better way to put it. UK's defense hasn't spent a lot of time in the opposition's backfield, if any.
But that wasn't the case Saturday night against the Gamecocks. Kentucky was all over Brandon McIllwain and that pressure created four sacks and several other breakdowns for the South Carolina offense. The pressure was at its best in the most critical moments, too. With the Gamecocks driving late in the fourth quarter and looking to tie, Josh Allen got to McIllwain for the sack to create a 3rd and 17 situation. More pressure forced an incompletion and then Denzil Ware pulled McIllwain down for a 19-yard loss and a turnover on downs, which essentially ended the game.
2.) Thanks for the motivation, Lee Corso!
When Lee Corso said "Kentucky may have the worse defense in the history of football" on College GameDay
, the Cats were listening. It did not fall on deaf ears in the UK pregame.
Then once the smoke cleared and the win was on the board, Matt Elam was quick to tweet out Corso's comment to his followers.
It's safe to say Corso's words served as motivation for the Wildcat D.
So thanks for that, Scooter.
3.) Kentucky's defensive line recorded its first sack of the year.
Continuing the defensive praise, let's point out that Naquez Pringle and Alvonte Bell's first quarter sack was the first by a UK defensive lineman this season. It's not good that it took until the fourth game to get one, but it's good that they got one.
That's now eight sacks on the year for the defensive, led by Josh Allen and Denzil Ware with three apiece.
4.) You better bring some help if you plan to tackle Benny Snell.
Benny Snell had another big game on the ground for Kentucky, this time totaling 77 yards on 16 carries and the game-winning score. The true freshman does not have a very dominating physique, but when he gets those legs churning, he has a dominating attack. I'm not sure my man has ever gone down at first contact; it takes all the defense has to pull him down. Those legs just keep pushing and pushing, fighting and fighting, until he's gang tackled. He gets every single yard he possibly can before going down. He's a special player and he's only a freshman. Love the effort on every carry. Love me some Benny.
5.) Boom did Boom things.
Before Snell won the game and then put it away with his fourth quarter runs, Boom Williams tallied up plenty yards of his own. Boom finished with a game-high 123 yards and a score, plus a staggering 8.2 yards per carry. He and Snell combined for an even 200 on the ground.
Smash and Dash?
6.) Stephen Johnson did enough to win.
Johnson is undefeated as a starting quarterback, but he has plenty of room to improve before we start putting him on billboards. He took too many sacks and had too many errant throws, one resulting in an interception when he had a wide open receiver as a his target. That being said, his scramble to the one-yard line late in the game was huge and he did enough for 60 minutes to earn the win. Can't complain about that.
7.) What the hell was South Carolina's tight end trying to accomplish here?
A hurdle? With no momentum?
I bet he'd like to have that one back. Speaking of backs, get some ice on that.
8.) KENTUCKY DIDN'T GIVE UP A SCORE BEFORE HALFTIME!!!!!!
Although, if not for a pass interference call, we wouldn't be saying that. South Carolina picked off a pass with 21 seconds left and took it all the way down to the goal line. Luckily it got called back.
9.) The music in Commonwealth Stadium was much better.
Kudos to whatever changes were made in the DJ booth. Saturday's night in-game music received universal praise and it's no coincidence it came with a win. Let's hope someone saved that playlist and then let's run it back for the Vanderbilt game here in two weeks.
10.) Bowl hopes are still alive.
Say what you will about all the negative talking points we've beaten into the ground the last month... the bowl hopes are still alive and well.
Sure, it'll take a big run through the remainder of the schedule but there are plenty of winnable games ahead. Throw Tennessee, Louisville and Alabama aside for a moment and there's not one game Kentucky couldn't theoretically win. Of course, doing it is one thing, but the opportunities are there. Let's. Go.
A few more quick thoughts before shut-eye:
-- Still missing tackles and opportunities for stops at the line of scrimmage. That can fly against a bad offense like South Carolina, but not when a real team comes to town. Can't let those chances go by and give up extra yards.
-- I like the new anthracite (coal) uniforms.
-- Jordan Jones is a tackling machine. He now has 43 on the season for almost 11 per game. He is literally everywhere on the field. And he's slightly crazy, in a good way.
-- Kentucky should look into hiring Wesley Woodyard. Woodyard was the sideline's hype man in the first half until he had to fly back to Nashville to meet curfew. Maybe there's a way he can be at games when the Titans are at home on Sunday? Make that happen, UK.
-- I'm now 0-4 ATS in UK games. Very happy to be wrong in this one.
-- WE WANT BAMA!!!!!