|Akeem Auguste and the rest of the Gamecocks got the jump on Kentucky in the second half. (US Presswire)|
SOUTH CAROLINA WON. When starting quarterback Maxwell Smith left the game with a leg injury in the first quarter, it looked like South Carolina might have as easy a time with the Wildcats as Florida did last week when Smith was a late scratch vs. the Gators. But this time Joker Phillips turned to true freshman Jalen Whitlow and the Prattville, Ala., product responded by staking the homestanding Wildcats to a shocking 17-7 halftime lead. But the second half was all Gamecocks as Connor Shaw continued his excellent play -- 15-of-18, 148 yards, 2 touchdowns, no picks -- and Whitlow's magic dissolved in a flurry of negative plays, three-and-outs, and turnovers. It was a valiant effort, but the Wildcats are the Wildcats, and the Gamecocks are the Gamecocks.
WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON. Put simply, because the offense as constructed around Whitlow in the first half -- one heavy on quarterback draws, screens, and draws to running back Raymond Sanders, with virtually no downfield passing threat -- wasn't complicated enough to sustain for an entire game. But unlike the Tennessee game last season, when Matt Roark moved from wideout to quarterback and used a similar scheme to scrape out a win over the hated Vols, this time the opponent had enough defensive talent to adjust and enough offensive firepower to make Kentucky chase the game in the second half.
But credit is also due the Gamecocks running game, which behind a fully rejuvenated Marcus Lattimore ran flat over the Wildcats in the third and fourth quarters -- most notably on the 14-play, 81-yard touchdown drive spanning the third and fourth quarters that consisted of 13 mostly straight-ahead runs. Lattimore finished with 120 yards and two touchdowns in a quintessential Lattimorian performance.
WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON. The Gamecocks still had plenty of work to do, but whatever chance Kentucky really had of hanging on for the win evaporated at the end of the first half. A frustrated Steve Spurrier bizarrely elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 in his own territory, only for the snap to fly over Shaw's head and set the Wildcats up at the Gamecocks 10 with 56 seconds left in the second quarter. But the Wildcats' first play went nowhere, and Phillips let nearly 30 seconds run off the clock before burning his team's final timeout. Whitlow was sacked and fumbled on the next snap, and though the Wildcats recovered, they couldn't spike the ball in time to avoid the clock running out on the half. Even with Kentucky taking that 10-point lead into the locker room, the sense was that they couldn't afford to waste such a golden opportunity and keep momentum -- and that sense was exactly right.
WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON. The right to host Georgia next week at 5-0 overall, 3-0 SEC, and in the national top 6 ... just like the Dawgs. The stakes couldn't be higher, the stage not more perfectly set..
WHAT KENTUCKY LOST. If things weren't so desperate in Lexington, a game in which the Wildcats found a promising new quarterback, showed off an impressive running game, and kept a dynamic offense in check for a half would be encouraging. As is, it's just one more chance gone by the boards for Phillips to claim the season-salvaging win he needs.