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Kentucky Football

Cats Coast in Senior Night Win Over Gamecocks

December 5, 2020
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Kentucky welcomed South Carolina to Lexington on a Senior Night unlike any other. With Covid restrictions in place, families were not able to join the 18 players on the field pregame. Conspicuously absent from Senior Night honors was Davonte Robinson, presumably meaning he plans to return to play next season. The Cats put together one of their best games of the year, finding some balance on offense and going five for five on red zone trips, an area that has plagued Kentucky all year. They totaled 492 yards of offense to South Carolina’s 404. Kentucky has now won 6 of 7 against the Gamecocks.

Kentucky capped a rough and emotional season with a great win over a flailing South Carolina team, tying their season-high for points scored with 41. Wilson played loose, racking up 201 yards on 17 completions out of 26 attempts. He added 46 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries on the ground. AJ Rose showed out on his Senior Night, going for a touchdown and 101 yards on 14 carries in one of his best looking games, but Chris Rodriguez was the star, accounting for 139 yards and three touchdowns on his 14 carries. Josh Ali led the way in receptions with five for 35 yards, but it was Justin Rigg who racked up the most yardage, taking advantage of his three catches to the tune of 72 yards.

The defense played a quality game too, with Jamin Davis leading the way with 10 tackles. DeAndre Square, wearing Chris Oats’ #22 jersey, registered four tackles and half a tackle for loss. Justin Rogers came away with the only sack of the night, but it was turnovers where the Cats thrived tonight. Yusuf Corker came away with the only interception of the night, and Jordan Wright recovered two fumbles. Kordell Looney registered the Cats’ third fumble recovery, and Boogie Watson was responsible for forcing two fumbles. The WIldcats also lived in the Gamecock backfield, something a lot of teams have been doing this season. Kentucky came away with nine tackles for loss, 2.5 of those going to Boogie Watson. 

First Quarter

South Carolina received the opening kickoff and moved down the field with alacrity, finding yards both in the passing and running game. The Kentucky defense struggled to make stops early, but once in the red zone, they were able to shore up. What looked to be a long touchdown on a screen pass came back due to holding against the Gamecocks, and the Wildcats eventuallyn forced a field goal attempt. The kick went wide and the Cats offense took over on their own 21 yard line.

Terry Wilson started hot, taking off outside for a gain of 14 yards on the first play of the drive. The Cats kept the ball moving, thanks in part to a few explosive plays. On 2nd and 3, Wilson’s pass to Rose went for 26 yards to take the Cats across midfield and deep into Gamecock territory. After two more completions for 11 and 18 yards, the Cats ran out of gas and settled for a 22 yard field goal. 

Down 3-0, the Gamecocks took over looking to put together a drive, but on the second play, Jordan Wright wrestled the ball away from Zaquandre White for the turnover. On the first play, AJ Rose took off for 15 yards and dove for the end zone, but the touchdown was overturned and the ball placed at the one-yard line. Rodriguez came in at running back and punched the ball in to put the Wildcats up 10-0.

Carolina returned the ball 52 yards on the ensuing kickoff, giving them fantastic field position at the Wildcat 40 yard line. South Carolina stalled out after only one first down and eventually kicked a 47 yard field goal to get on the board.

With 1:38 left in the quarter, the WIldcat offense came back out with Chris Rodriguez leading the way. Despite some early rushing success, the Cats ran into penalty problems and couldn’t recover, going backwards in their own territory. After a 10 yard pickup by Wilson on 3rd and 19, Max Duffy came out to punt.

Second Quarter

Kentucky’s defense stayed strong on South Carolina’s drive, forcing a three-and-out that resulted in the Gamecocks punting from their own 34 yard line. 

Kentucky started on their own 19 yard line, but moved quickly thanks to a great connection between Wilson and Justin Rigg for 36 yards to open the drive. AJ Rose ran twice for 10 and six yards before Wilson again went to Rigg, this time for 21 yards. The Cats capped off the electric drive with an eight-yard touchdown run by AJ Rose, giving him a score on his Senior Night and putting the Cats up 17-3.

Luke Doty stayed with the passing game when South Carolina took the field, but struggled with consistency. On 3rd and 12 at midfield, Doty passed over the middle and Yusuf Corker went up for a fantastic interception. The catch would be impressive by any standard, and gave the Cats their second turnover of the night. 

Kentucky took over at their own 36 yard line, but after two rushes by Chris Rodriguez the Cats couldn’t find the yards, and Max Duffy punted once again. 

The defense stepped up after the punt by the offense, and gave up just seven yards on a three-and-out by South Carolina, getting the ball back for Wilson and co. with 4:40 left in the half.

The Wildcats took over on the South Carolina 39 yard line thanks to a kick catch interference flag, and took advantage of the field position. Kentucky rushed on every play of the drive, splitting the reps between Chris Rodriguez and AJ Rose. It was Rodriguez who punched the ball into the end zone for a two-yard score. The touchdown extended the Kentucky lead to 24-3.

With just 1:09 left in the half, the Gamecocks came out on offense needing to score before Kentucky received the second half kickoff. On the third play of the drive, Doty pulled the ball and took off, but fumbled as he tried to rush. Jordan Wright jumped on the ball for Kentucky’s, and his, second fumble recovery of the game. 

The WIldcats offense had 42  seconds to make something happen, and Wilson went to the air immediately. The Wildcats were called for an ineligible receiver downfield on 1st down, pushing them back to the 38 yard line. From there, Wilson threw to the end zone, where the Gamecocks were called for pass interference on Isaiah Epps. It gave the Cats 15 yards and a fresh set of downs, but three incompletions left the Cats with 4th and 10. Matt Ruffolo came out for the field goal attempt, and the 41 yard kick was good. The Cats went to the locker room for halftime up 27-3.

Third Quarter

Kentucky received the second half kickoff, and made the most of having possessions to bookend the halftime. The Cats moved down the field slowly but surely with a balance run and pass attack, headlined by another big completion from Wilson to Rigg, this one for 15 yards. The Cats also converted an early 3rd and 8 with a 10 yard pass to Allen Dailey. At the one-yard line Wilson kept the ball himself and ran into the end zone untouched for the score, capping  a drive that took 7:32 off the clock and went 75 yards on 13 plays. The Wildcats led 34-3.

South Carolina answered fast, led by Kevin Harris on the ground. Harris carried on five of seven plays as the Gamecocks worked down the field in just 2:03. The drive was helped along by a personal foul call against Josh Paschal. The Gamecock touchdown brought the score to 34-10.

Kentucky’s offense fizzled in the second half, and the answering drive lasted seven plays before Max Duffy had to punt from the Wildcat 41 yard line.

The Gamecock offense came back out with 2:18 left in the third quarter, and some momentum starting to build. Kevin Harris took off for 59 yards on the first play of the drive, taking South Carolina deep into Kentucky territory. Already at the 27 yard line, the Gamecocks couldn’t overcome the Kentucky defense and settled for a field goal attempt. The 51-yard kick missed, and Kentucky took over in the early seconds of the fourth quarter.

Fourth Quarter

Wilson connected with Allen Dailey for 14 yards to open the drive, and South Carolina’s Jammie Robinson was called for targeting on the play, resulting in an ejection and an extra 15 yards for the Wildcats. Wilson connected with Mike Drennen for six yards on the next play, but 2nd and 3rd down combined for just three yards, bringing up 4th and 1. The Cats went for it on a quarterback sneak, but the line had no push and the Gamecocks stopped Wilson in his tracks. South Carolina took over on downs.

While the offense was struggling, the defense came to play and forced another South Carolina three-and-out. The 44-yard punt gave the Cats the ball back at their own 22-yard line.

Kentucky once again failed to find yards on offense, with AJ Rose rushing twice, once for 15 yards to start the drive, Jutahn McClain taking one carry, and Wilson taking the ball on 3rd and 3. Wilson only picked up two, and Max Duffy came out to punt.

After a few strong stops by the defense, they struggled to slow down the Gamecocks this time. Boogie Watson forced a fumble on the third play of the drive, but Carolina was able to recover the ball and keep the chains moving after that. Doty hit Joyner for a 30-yard touchdown pass that was reviewed at length to see if Doty had passed the line of scrimmage. The score stood, and the Gamecocks went for the two point conversion. Doty’s pass was good and South Carolina closed the gap to 34-18.

After some confusion on the kickoff in which UK did not initially field it, but beat the Gamecocks to it eventually, the offense came back on the field at the 21 yard line. Rodriguez took the carry up the B gap and was untouched, finding open field all the way. He took the ball 79 yards for the Wildcat score, and the lead opened up to 41-18 after Ruffolo’s extra point. 

South Carolina got the ball with 4:56 left to play and tried to make the most of it, putting together a 15 play drive that lasted 3:43. The drive advanced to the Kentucky 24 yard line, but only netted 37 yards thanks to Joyner’s fumble that was forced by Boogie Watson. Kordell Looney recovered for Kentucky, giving the Cats the ball at their own 38-yard line. 

The offense came back out to kneel and run out the clock in what is almost certainly Terry Wilson’s last snap in Kroger Field. The Cats finish their season 4-6 with a dominant performance over the Gamecocks to cap it off. Kentucky will now wait for the rest of the conference to finish up, followed by the SEC Championship game, before they hear about possible bowl bids.

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Cats Coast in Senior Night Win Over Gamecocks

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