Kentucky finds little to celebrate about after win


Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops yells at a referee during the game against South Carolina on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky defeated South Carolina 24 to 10. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Beating a quality SEC opponent by two touchdowns to move to 5-0 for the first time since 2007 would be enough to spark a rowdy postgame locker room celebration, many would think.

However, that was not the case in Kentucky’s locker room in Kroger Field on Saturday evening, as the 24-10 victory over South Carolina did little to excite the Wildcats after the game.

“We didn’t even dance or celebrate at all, we were just kind of ‘alright,’” head coach Mark Stoops said after the game. “They expect to play that way and really appreciate their effort.” 

Even though they won by 14 points, the Wildcats made many mistakes on both sides of the ball that led to the down locker room compared to previous victories this season.

On offense, Kentucky only managed 75 yards in the second half after totaling 252 yards and all 24 points in the first. The rushing game was absent while Terry Wilson went 5-9 and one interception in the second half. 

In the fourth quarter alone, with the Gamecocks in striking distance, Kentucky’s offense lost two yards on 10 plays.

“We had some missed assignments, at least in the trenches, and we also just – I don’t think we brought out physicality, myself included, like we did for Mississippi State and Florida, at for the full 60 minutes,” tight end CJ Conrad said. “That’s something we’re going to be back in the film room, get a lot better in practice this week.”

Another thing that stalled Kentucky’s offense was the penalties. The Wildcats lost 115 yards in penalties, the most its lost all season.

85 of those negative yards came from the offense, with the penalties ranging from false starts, holding and personal fouls.

“Coach has teaching tapes and he had those moments where we say ‘look here,’ and this week it will be on us,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said on the offense’s penalties. “Can’t do it for us to get to that next level. 

As for the defense, they allowed 204 yards in the second half, but only gave the Gamecocks seven points off all those yards. The thing that prevented South Carolina from scoring more was two second-half interceptions from the Gamecocks, one of which was on Kentucky’s goal line with 3:47 remaining in the game.

The two interceptions gave Kentucky four forced turnovers in the game, which is the second time this season they’ve forced five turnovers. However, Mike Edwards, who caught the fourth quarter interception, believes the team can perform better in the turnover department.

“We took the ball over this week but I feel like we can definitely take the ball away a bunch more,” Edwards said.

Even though the Cats realize they left several good plays on the field, that isn’t taking away the joy of being 5-0 for the first time since 2007.

The joy might come with a little sting with the way they played, but that just leaves room for improvement, which they will continue to work towards as the season goes on.

“We’re always striving for that perfect game and it’s probably unrealistic, but the guys are really practicing in a good way,” Stoops said.