Sept. 16, 2017
Kentucky 23, South Carolina 13COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Benny Snell Jr. rushed for two touchdowns and Kentucky's defense held off South Carolina to win its fourth straight over the Gamecocks, 23-13, on Saturday night.
Snell, who's status was in doubt earlier in the week due to bruised ribs, rushed for scores of 5 and 1 yard in leading the Wildcats (1-0 Southeastern Conference) to their first 3-0 start since 2010. Two years ago, Kentucky snapped a 22-game SEC road losing streak at South Carolina.
This time, the Wildcats left no doubt about who was the better team in this one.
It did not start that way, though.
South Carolina (2-1, 1-1) electrified a sold-out stadium with a 68-yard TD catch by receiver Deebo Samuel on the opening play, then got an interception and a fumble from the Wildcats' first two drives. But Kentucky's defense did not allow the Gamecocks any more points after that.
Snell and offense took over with two long, first-half scoring drives for a 14-6 lead. Snell ended a 13-play series with his 5-yard touchdown. He capped an 11-play sequence with his second touchdown.
Kentucky made the critical plays when it needed. Facing fourth-and-goal from the Wildcats 1 in the fourth quarter, Gamecock tailback Rico Dowdle was stopped cold by linebacker Jamar Watson and cornerback Derrick Baity.
Then when the Gamecocks closed it to 20-13 on OrTre Smith's 9-yard touchdown grab with 6:26 left, Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson scrambled on third down for a 54-yard run that led to Austin MacGinnis' third field goal with two minutes left that sealed the win.
Snell finished with 102 yards on 32 carries.
Samuel had five catches for 122 yards and his sixth touchdown of the season. But he left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury.
QUOTING COACH MUSCHAMP
"I'm extremely disappointed with that performance. With as good of a night as our fans and our administration set up for us, to go out and play like that, I feel like it's my responsibility. It's extremely disappointing to play the first two ball games pretty clean, and we jump off sides four to five times, we have two short field goal; offensively we can't get anything going, we had a hard time in short yardage, we were unable to convert a one-yard run on two separate occasions; defensively can't get off the field on third down in the first half, we didn't tackle very well for the night. We had an opportunity there at the end to get off the field, and we had a quarterback scramble for 54 yards. I'm extremely disappointed. I hate it for our fans, because they were certainly excited to be there. We had a wonderful environment that they created, and we certainly didn't follow up. We had our opportunities early, and we didn't convert. It's disappointing. Give Kentucky credit for winning the game."
South Carolina forced a pair of first-half turnovers, an interception from Skai Moore and a fumble recovery from Jamyest Williams. The Gamecocks did not turn those Kentucky miscues into points as a Jake Bentley interception and a punt ended those USC drives.
68 -- Jake Bentley hit Deebo Samuel for a 68-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the game. Samuel ended the game with five receptions for 122 yards but he suffered an injury that will have him out for extended period of time.
The Gamecocks will host Louisiana Tech, out of Conference USA, at Williams-Brice Stadium next Saturday. Game time is set for 3:30 pm and the game will be televised on SEC Network. Carolina leads the all-time series with the Bulldogs by a 4-0-1 count. The teams tied the 1991 contest, then the Gamecocks won four-straight matchups from 1992-95.
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