Looking back on top moments of South Carolina winning streak


Kentucky Wildcats running back Jojo Kemp runs through the defense during the second half against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, October 4, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky upset South Carolina 45-38. Photo by Michael Reaves | Staff

As Kentucky’s most infamous losing streak ends, the next goal is quite the opposite– maintain a building winning streak against conference opponent South Carolina. Since the 1990s, the Cats and Gamecocks have played an annual game. Some have been blowouts (USC won 54-3 in 2011) and some have been narrow escapes (the Cats scored a last-minute touchdown to beat USC in 2010).

Since 2014, the Cats have won against South Carolina annually. It’s beginning to become expected, even if the game is one of only two SEC wins, as was the case in 2014.

Over the last several years, there have been some memorable moments in the annual rivalry game. A little bad blood here and there has never gone amiss, and it’s unlikely this year will be much different. With that said, here are my picks for the three best UK-USC moments from recent years:

3. It’s a party

In 2014, in front of 62,135 fans at then-Commonwealth Stadium, the Cats were kicking off another bleak conference schedule by hosting South Carolina. Early in the second quarter, the game seemed to be more of the same for UK’s gridiron squad. The Gamecocks were up 14-0, and the situation looked poor overall for the Cats.

Thanks to a short flurry of touchdowns and a half-ending field goal by Austin MacGinnis, the Cats tied the game at 17 at the half.

In the third and fourth quarters, USC seemed to be running away with the game again. With just over eight minutes to go in the game, the Gamecocks were up 14 and fans started filing out of the stadium. The Cats drove down the field, thanks to a resilient effort from JoJo Kemp, and he punched it in to bring the Cats within a score.

UK made the Gamecocks punt after just four plays, and scored again to tie the game at 38 with only three minutes left. All USC had to do was get in field goal range.

Two plays into the USC drive, quarterback Dylan Thompson threw a pass wide that was intercepted by Alvin “Bud” Dupree. Dupree took the pass six yards into the end zone, putting the Cats ahead for good.

What helps this game live on in infamy is the Cats’ celebration after their late-night scores. As Waka Flocka Flame’s “Grove Street Party” blasted over the speakers during UK’s comeback attempt, the special teams unit stood together and danced before the kickoff to continue the game. It’s a tradition that still holds after touchdowns.

2. Bend, don’t break

The 2015 season was not kind to Stoops’ Troops. They ended the season 5-7 (2-6 SEC) and seemed to be stuck in a rut, forever doomed to be an underperforming football team. Fans were hopeful to start the 2015 season, but didn’t expect much. South Carolina hosted the Cats, who were in the midst of a horrific 22-game road losing streak.

After the first drive, the Gamecocks were up 7-0 amidst the general groan from the true blue of “here we go again.” Thanks to stellar performances by Patrick Towles and Stanley “Boom” Williams, however, the Cats led 24-7 at the half. They had a chance.

South Carolina scored first to start the second half, charging down the field in under two minutes before being stopped for a field goal. 24-10.

UK punts after three plays.

USC moves down the field again, this time in 2:06. However, they get stopped for a field goal again. 24-13.

UK punts after three plays.

Another field goal. 24-16.

UK punts.

Finally, in the third-longest drive of the game, South Carolina finds themselves in the end zone. 24-22, and the Cats were in danger. Freshman defensive end Denzil Ware, then relegated to the special teams unit, saw his opportunity. He took a fumble on a two-point conversion attempt and took it 98 yards for the two points. Cats win.

1. Mike goes mad

2010 was a strange year for the Cats. Yes, I know this wasn’t in the winning streak. However, it still stands as the single greatest second-half performance I have ever seen out of Kentucky football.

In 2010, the program was still in a bit of a hangover from its glory 2007-08 years. Randall Cobb, the ultra-athletic and NFL-bound Swiss Army knife of a player, was balling out. And No. 10 South Carolina was coming to town.

A lot of the years the Cats have beaten USC, the Gamecocks have been on some kind of down year, or are middling in the SEC. In 2010, the Gamecocks were world-beaters.

They sure looked like it in the first half, too. All-American and current USC director of player development Marcus Lattimore (who would suffer a horrific leg injury in a later game that he’s remembered for) ran all over the Cats, scoring two touchdowns in the first half. After the first quarter, USC was up 14-0. After the first half, they were up 28-10.

The defenses went back and forth until the end of the third quarter, after it seemed like South Carolina was simply wrapping a weak conference opponent up in a bow. Then, something happened with Mike Hartline. I’m not even sure what it was. Maybe he got a phone call from Tom Brady. Maybe he came in contact with a Space Jam-style football. Either way, he took over the game.

Over the next 15 game minutes, Mike Hartline threw for roughly 200 yards and hit three different receivers for three more touchdowns to come storming back against a national power.

The Cats played the long game in the fourth quarter during their go-ahead drive, stretching the possession out over six minutes. The drive was capped by a 24-yard pass from Hartline to Cobb, followed by a Cobb rush for the two-point conversion. The Cats had their first lead of the game against No. 10 USC, and there was only a minute left. The Gamecocks couldn’t recover, and the Cats had a statement win.

UK versus USC will kick off Saturday, Sept. 29.