COLUMBIA, S.C. – The defense couldn’t get off the field and the offense couldn’t stay on it. South Carolina struggled in all phases in the 23-13 loss to Kentucky.
To make matters worse, star wide receiver Deebo Samuel is going to miss substantial time with an injury.
Here are this week’s grades from SEC Country:
It wasn’t all terrible for South Carolina’s offense. Jake Bentley threw for 304 yards and completed 16 straight passes at one point. Before exiting with an injury, Samuel caught 5 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown. He was one of 10 different receivers who caught a pass for the Gamecocks.
But there was plenty of bad, too. For starters, South Carolina went 3-for-12 on third-down. Rico Dowdle rushed 8 times for 23 yards, for an average of 2.9 yards per carry. Fellow running back A.J. Turner had 5 carries for 13 yards. Ty’Son Williams, last week’s leading-rusher, didn’t have a single carry.
And, of course, the ugly: Samuel got hurt. No matter the extent of the injury, he’ll be seriously missed.
Also, no points were scored off the two turnovers in the first quarter. Both of South Carolina’s ensuing drives started inside of Kentucky territory.
Kentucky’s star running back, Benny Snell, averaged only 3.2 yards per carry, but he rushed for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns, both of which capped long drives the lasted 5-plus minutes. Quarterback Stephen Johnson picked up 74 yards on the ground, including a 54-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.
The scramble was one of several third-down conversions by the Wildcats. In fact, Kentucky went 9-for-16 on third-down.
Maybe things wouldn’t have been so bad had the offense punched in the opportunities after the two turnovers, a Skai Moore interception and a Jamyest Williams fumble.
Special teams: D-minus
Alex Woznick’s miserable night began with a missed extra point and ended with a missed 42-yard, fourth-quarter field goal attempt.
In between, Parker White missed a pair of field goals, both of which were over 50 yards. Two of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.
Joseph Charlton averaged 40.7 yards per punt with a long of 53. One punt was downed inside the 10.
Fans have a right to gripe, because there were some questionable decisions by the offense, in particular the fourth quarter, fourth-and-goal play-call from inside the 1-yard line. Why go shotgun and run Rico Dowdle to the outside?
But it’s not like Dowdle would have had much room to run between the tackles and/or if the play began with Bentley under center. It would have probably been the same result had Dowdle or Williams carried on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1, when the Gamecocks were stopped at the Wildcats 49-yard line in the third quarter.
The delay of game penalty right before halftime cost South Carolina points. White nailed the first field goal attempt with five seconds left in the first half, but it didn’t count because of the penalty.