South Carolina seniors look to right ship against Kentucky

South Carolina seniors look to right ship against Kentucky

By Josh Hyber/Photo by Allen Sharpe

There was the 42-6 beat down at Williams-Brice Stadium back in 2001 and the 44-16 victory in 2005. In 2011, there was the 54-3 thrashing led by the likes of Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffrey. 

So, to say South Carolina has had success against Kentucky would be an understatement. There has been just one team — Vanderbilt — the Gamecocks have had more success against since they entered the SEC in 1992. The Gamecocks are 17-9-1 against the Wildcats, including a stretch of 13 wins in 14 games from 2000-2013.

But as SC’s group of seniors know, the Wildcats have won the past three: 45-38 in Lexington, 26-22 in Columbia and 17-10 at home last season.

It’s payback time for the garnet and black (2-0, 1-0 SEC), who host the Wildcats (2-0) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium.

VIDEO: Jake Bentley says Deebo Samuel should be in Heisman discussion  

“They’ve beaten us the past three years, but we burn that up,” Gamecock senior safety Chris Lammons said. “…When we look back at the past three years, it’s nothing that they did. It’s what we’ve done, not being able to control the run. We just have to (correct) the things that we did wrong.”

SC head coach Will Muschamp reminded his team after it beat Missouri 31-13 on Saturday that this group of Gamecock seniors has yet to beat the Wildcats.

“And that’s not something we need to allow to happen,” the coach said on Tuesday afternoon. “We’ll certainly be focused on Kentucky this week and understand what’s at stake. It’s the SEC East. It’s the home opener. So, there’s a lot of things.”

Lammons said the Gamecocks must stick to Muschamp’s gameplan.

“This is a big game for us,” he said. “This is our measuring scale (game) right here … We have home field advantage and we’re going to take care of it.”

VIDEO: Will Muschamp talks Kentucky matchup

Kentucky — in Gamecock outside linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams’ words — ran the ball down the Gamecocks’ throats last season to the tune of 216 yards.

“Last year, this is a team that we could not stop the run (against),” Muschamp said. “Last year, they bled us out in the fourth quarter and we could not run the ball effectively at all. So, it’s a good challenge for our guys this week.” 

Wildcat running back Benny Snell Jr. rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown, one that gave the Wildcats a 17-10 lead in the fourth-quarter.

Allen-Williams said this time around the Gamecock defense has a better understanding of what Muschamp wants to do and is “way more physical” and cohesive up front.

“If we take care of us, I feel like we can go out and play against anybody and do well against anybody, defensively,” he said.  

Added Lammons, “If we just wrap up and execute our tackles, we should be OK.” 

On the other hand, Carolina managed just 268 yards of total offense against Kentucky last season, with starting quarterback Brandon McIlwain completing 15 of 30 passes for 177 yards. The Gamecocks rushed for just 91. 

But SC starting quarterback Jake Bentley was on the bench then, as was receiver Deebo Samuel, who was out with an injury. 

“That’s who I am preparing for this week, for our seniors,” Bentley said. “To give them that win that they deserve … It’s going to be a test. Every Saturday is a test of where we’re at and hopefully we will prepare the right way and be ready to go.

“But the seniors know they haven’t beat them in their time here and we want to see if we can change that.”