South Carolina vs. Kentucky: Game Grades, Analysis for Gamecocks

Jim Sullivan@jsully711Featured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2015

Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Patrick Towles (14) throws from the pocket against the South Carolina in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. Kentucky won 26-22. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
John Bazemore/Associated Press

In a game that felt more like two completely separate halves, the Kentucky Wildcats emerged the 26-22 victors over the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, South Carolina, earning their first SEC road win since 2009. 

The Wildcats offense, which showed up for the first half and the final drive of the second, was led by the ever-present quarterback Patrick Towles and running back Boom Williams, who combined for 299 yards and no scores on the night. South Carolina, on the other hand, struggled under starting QB Connor Mitch before his injury forced backup Perry Orth under center, who excelled and led the comeback. 

South Carolina Gamecocks Game Grades
First HalfSecond Half
Pass OffenseC-B
Rush OffenseCB+
Pass DefenseCA-
Rush DefenseC-B-
Special TeamsB-A
Week 2 vs Kentucky

Pass Offense: Again, it was a tale of two halves, and South Carolina's passing game in the first half was atrocious. Mitch finished the game with 43 yards on 4-of-7 passing for no scores, and the passing offense suffered tremendously due to the lack of production. The second half told a different story, as Orth completed 13 of 20 passes for 179 yards, a touchdown and an interception. 

Rush Offense: Similarly, the rush offense was unreliable during the first half, as the South Carolina offense was only able to put anything on the board due to an early Kentucky interception returned to the UK 1-yard line. Again, however, the second half proved separate, as Shon Carson and Brandon Wilds put together a more complete performance that led to three field goals.

Pass Defense: Outside of a single interception that led to the Gamecocks' lone first-half touchdown, the pass defense could not shut down UK signal-caller Towles before the third quarter. A series of second-half three-and-outs, dropped passes and better tackling quickly slowed down Towles and the Wildcats, serving to create a more one-dimensional Kentucky offense. 

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Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Rush Defense: The defense suffered through a tough first half against a Kentucky offense that refused to be denied, as Williams and Jojo Kemp continually troubled the Gamecock front seven. Similar to the passing offense of Kentucky, though, the rush attack was whittled to almost nothing before an impressive surge in the final drive of the game, where the Wildcats iced the game with multiple first-down rushes.  

Special Teams: South Carolina kicker Elliott Fry had few chances to impress in the first half, but a second half with three of three field goals made, all of which combined to put the Gamecocks back in the game, proved crucial. Additionally, no major punting or kickoff blunders allowed USC to stay within striking range of the Wildcats. 

Coaching: The Gamecocks entered this game with little to no motivation to even show up, despite the fact it was on their home turf in their home opener. For the most part, coaching is to blame for the lack of effort. However, Steve Spurrier and his staff do deserve major kudos for the second-half response, which was timely and put the Gamecocks in a position to earn the win. 

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