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Five things you need to know from Kentucky football’s 16-10 win over South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium:
1. The defense didn’t rest. On a night when the Kentucky offense did all it could to sabotage the Wildcats, the UK defense refused to lose.
Offensively, the Cats fumbled the ball four times, losing two. Kentucky threw an interception on a play when a better-placed throw would have meant a touchdown. Not once, but twice, UK receivers who had an apparent clear path to the end zone fell down after making receptions.
Yet the Kentucky defense bailed the Cats out.
Three times, the UK defense held South Carolina on fourth-down plays in UK territory.
Carolina got no points off Kentucky’s three turnovers.
The Gamecocks offense that ran for 297 yards vs. UK last year in Lexington was held to 58 yards Saturday night, averaging only 2.2 yards a carry.
Linebacker DeAndre Square was stout vs. the run, making eight tackles, five solo.
Nose guard Marquan McCall appeared to disrupt the center of the South Carolina offense all night.
Backup UK safety — Columbia, S.C. product — Jalen Geiger made two huge plays late in the fourth quarter, tackling Kevin Harris for a 6-yard loss on a swing pass and then breaking up a Luke Doty pass.
And UK defensive coordinator Brad White dialed up some timely blitzes.
South Carolina is not a great offense by any means, but this was still the Kentucky defense bailing the Cats out in a SEC road game.
2. What’s up with all the turnovers? Kentucky entered the South Carolina game tied for 127th in the FBS in turnover margin at minus-6.
Having gone minus-3 in Columbia, one would think UK has a very real chance to be last in the country next week in turnover margin.
Everything we know about football says a team turning the ball over like Kentucky is has no business being 4-0.
Yet the Cats will enter October’s murderer’s row of Florida, LSU, at Georgia and Mississippi State unbeaten.
To some extent, you have to give credit to the culture Mark Stoops has built. In the past, Kentucky teams that kept turning the ball over like this one has would have submitted amid all the adversity.
So far, at least, the 2021 Cats have not buckled beneath their own plethora of self-inflicted wounds.
But, surely, you can’t keep turning the ball over like this and beat high-level SEC teams like UK now has ahead of them.
3. Six straight for the Cats. With the victory in Columbia, Kentucky (4-0, 2-0 SEC) has now won six straight games dating back to the final two contests of last season.
The last time UK won six straight was in 2006 and 2007, when Rich Brooks’ Wildcats beat Clemson in the 2006 Music City Bowl and then started 2007 by going 5-0.
Kentucky has not won seven straight games since Fran Curci’s 1977 Cats won their final nine games en route to a 10-1 season.
4. Mark Stoops owns South Carolina. Before Stoops came to Kentucky in 2013, the Gamecocks had beaten UK 12 out of the previous 13 meetings.
After losing at Columbia in his first meeting with South Carolina in 2013, Stoops has now beaten the Gamecocks seven out of the last eight.
5. Stoops makes more history. With the victory, Stoops (26-42) set a new Kentucky record for Southeastern Conference victories, moving past Fran Curci (25-30).
Stoops is now 53-50 overall as UK head man and needs eight more victories to pass Bear Bryant (60-23-5) as Kentucky’s all-time winningest coach.
Under Stoops, the Wildcats have started 2-0 in the SEC for the second time in the past four seasons (2018).
That might not sound like a big deal, but those two are the only times Kentucky has begun the league race with two straight victories since 1977.
For its initial road game of 2021, Kentucky wore white helmets, white jerseys with blue letters and numbers and white pants.
Since the start of the 2015 season, UK is 4-5 in all-white.