The last time the UK Football team went 3-0 to begin a season, Randall Cobb and Mike Hartline were still Cats, “rickrolling” people was still cool on the internet and the Golden State Warriors were a very bad basketball team.
However, with Saturday’s 23-13 win over South Carolina in Columbia, the Cats begin their season 3-0 for the first time since 2010.
In 2010, the Governor’s Cup game was played at the beginning of the season, so the Cats opened with a win against Louisville, 23-16. They then went on to trump Western Kentucky and Akron to achieve the quality starting record.
In Columbia, the Cats played a much harder-fought match than the ones that the team may have faced in 2010. The Gamecocks were the favorite to win the game by a considerable margin, and before the second quarter, it appeared as if the Cats may have succumbed to the hype of the battle.
“We have an edge and an attitude about us, and we like it that way,” head coach Mark Stoops said after UK’s win in Williams-Brice Stadium. “… you take a shot on the chin to start the game, the place is going wild, and we embraced it.”
Embraced it, they did. The UK defense didn’t allow a single score after that initial 68-yard touchdown pass to Deebo Samuel until the fourth quarter, when the Cats had the game well in hand.
Defense has been what this UK team has been built on, and the team’s success goes as far as the defense’s success in the games thus far. Anchored by veteran leadership Mike Edwards, Derrick Baity, Jordan Jones and Courtney Love, the Cats’ defense will always seem to find a way to win, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
“We really played tough mentally, we knew what to expect, we were really well prepared by our coaches,” said Love.
Coming into Saturday’s game, UK’s run defense was ranked 11th in the nation, and they showed why as they held South Carolina to under 100 total rushing yards on the game. The Cats have now held three straight opponents to under 100 rushing yards for the first time since 2008.
The Cats held a team accustomed to scoring around 30 points to just under half that, and that was without All-SEC linebacker Jordan Jones.
As long as the defense thrives, the Cats will too. Or at least, that’s the identity that this year’s UK team has seemed to take on.