South Carolina tames Wildcats, 44-16

Rafael Little

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina broke open a close game in the 4th quarter, aided by five Kentucky fumbles and an interception, to give Coach Steve Spurrier his first SEC win at South Carolina, 44-16 over the Wildcats. The victory brings Spurrier's record to a perfect 13-0 versus the Wildcats, despite a career high 120 yards rushing for UK sophomore Rafael Little.

The Gamecocks were led by returning starting quarterback, Blake Mitchell, who passed for 277 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another, in route to the victory. Mitchell missed last week's game against Auburn, a 48-7 blowout loss to the Tigers, due to an injury.

The game was close for much of the contest. At halftime, the two teams were dead even, 10-10. Midway through the 3rd quarter, South Carolina was clinging to a 17-16 lead, courtesy of a missed extra point by Taylor Begley. Begley's miss was the first after 92 consecutive, a UK record.

Momentum seemed to change, and South Carolina capitalized by scoring a touchdown to go back on top, 24-16. The Cats seemed to regain momentum, holding the Gamecocks on downs on the next possession, and then the bottom fell out.

On the next possession, as the 3rd quarter was about to end, Rafael Little fumbled, but the Cats temporarily dodged a bullet when South Carolina threw an interception. It would be the last bit of good fortune for the Cats, although the 3rd quarter ended with a slim South Carolina 24-16 lead over Kentucky. The 4th quarter would see South Carolina outscore Kentucky 20-0, and ice the game.

On the Cats first possession in the 4th quarter, they began at the own 19-yard line, and Rafael Little fumbled on the Cats first play--his second fumble in two carries--and South Carolina took a commanding 30-16 lead when they returned the fumble 19 yards for a touchdown.

Trailing now 30-16, on the ensuing possession, Arliss Beach took a handoff on UK's 22-yard line, and fumbled--the third consecutive offensive play the Wildcats had that ended in a fumble, and a change in possession, as the Gamecocks recovered.

Although the Gamecocks took over at the UK 32-yard line, the Wildcat defense stiffened, forcing a loss of yardage and a South Carolina punt. Four plays later, however, the Wildcat possession ended--for the fourth consecutive time--in a turnover, this time an Andre Woodson interception thrown into the hands of South Carolina's Ko Simpson.

Despite a South Carolina fumble at the UK 2-yard line, the Gamecocks recovered the fumble and punched the ball across the goal line for a 37-16 lead. South Carolina got the ball back on downs, and scored again with 2:47 to play for the final tally, 44-16.

Despite the fumbles, Little had a career-high 129 yards rushing on 28 carries. Beach added 73 yards on only 11 carriers, and backup quarterback Curtis Pulley rushed four times for 40 yards, as Kentucky racked up 255 yards rushing on the day. Andre Woodson was 11-17 passing, for only 90 yards, with one interception as well.

Kentucky falls to 1-4 (0-2 SEC) with the loss, while South Carolina moves to 3-3 (1-3 SEC) with the victory. After an off week next week, Kentucky returns to face Ole Miss on October 15 in Oxford.

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