COLUMBIA, S.C. — As reporters hurried to their seats prior to Mark Stoops’ postgame press conference, the door in the back of the room opened and the voice of Kentucky tight ends coach Vince Marrow boomed in its hoarse, deep tone.
“Thank y’all for picking against us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
To be clear, the credit for Kentucky’s win should entirely go to the players in the visitor’s locker room at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Wildcats were the better team against South Carolina — the touchdown favorites before the ball was kicked off.
Stoops had an edge about him after his squad’s 23-13 win. He carried an I-told-you-so kind of mood that oozed a kind of confidence the coach doesn’t normally show. And why wouldn’t he? Kentucky notched its fourth consecutive win against South Carolina in convincing fashion.
Kentucky held the ball more than 13 minutes longer than South Carolina did Saturday. The ground game bled the clock when it needed to. Sophomore Benny Snell carried 32 times for 102 yards while quarterback Stephen Johnson iced the game with a 54-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
The picks against Kentucky combined with the hype around Jake Bentley and the Gamecocks irked Stoops. The outside noise normally kept out seeped into Kentucky’s facilities this week.
“Quite honestly, we were tired of it,” Stoops said. “What, like we didn’t get better? Like we’re not a better football team? Whatever. We’re better.”
The Cats are 3-0 and and have won three straight road games for the first time since 2009 — wins at Louisville, Southern Miss and Saturday at South Carolina. Kentucky is a week away from yet another chance to snap its 30-year skid against Florida.
With doubt already fueling Kentucky, South Carolina didn’t help its cause before kickoff. The Gamecocks captains didn’t shake hands with Kentucky captains Stephen Johnson, Mike Edwards, Courtney Love and Nick Haynes.
The Wildcats was left hanging.
“Which gave us even more motivation, which is pretty stupid I guess on their part,” Johnson said.
“I thought we had respect, but I guess we don’t have respect,” Edwards added.
Word of the handshake refusal spread to the sidelines. Even as South Carolina’s first play from scrimmage went for a 68-yard score, Kentucky kept the edge that had been brewing for a week.
“We definitely spread that message and kept that in mind,” Snell said. “That’s just poor sportsmanship. That’s just disrespectful. We came out to play football. We ain’t got nothing else to say.”
The scoreboard at Williams-Brice Stadium did the rest of the talking.
“They deserved what they got,” Edwards said.