South Carolina looks for revenge against the Cats after upset last season




By Jordan Ondrof

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The Cats take their 1-0 record in to Columbia, South Carolina to face the Gamecocks in their second game of the season. The second game of the football season has historically been good to UK, winning it for the past 17-straight years.

The narrow victory against UL-Lafayette, driven by a disappointing second half, raised concern for the Big Blue Nation, calling into question the high expectations laid upon this team. Losing a 21-0 lead, shows the teams lack of maturity.

“Well, it was a combination, certainly there were some plays that the young guys need to do better, but what we need to do better is play better as a team,” head coach Mark Stoops said during his press conference on Tuesday.

South Carolina is once again the favorite in this matchup. The Gamecocks were also favored last season when the Cats pulled of the upset victory in Lexington, coming back from a 14-point deficit. With both teams as bowl contenders, South Carolina is looking for vengeance against Cats as they travel to Columbia.

“We are going to have our hands full this week playing a great South Carolina team. We will have our hands full that is for sure. With us beating them last year we have to go into their place and it will be a very, very difficult environment and they will be hungry to get after us with a very good football team, so we will have all hands full,” Stoops said.

The Cats need to find a way to remained focused throughout the game in order to be successful against an experienced South Carolina team that runs a wildcat offense.

South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper is the key to the Gamecocks offense. Cooper played quarterback in high school and is one of the most versatile players in the SEC.

“He’s (Cooper) a difference maker, he really is. I think you have to be well prepared for their wildcat package, and just wherever he lines up, whether that’s under center or at the different places they play him,” Stoops said.

USC quarterback Connor Mitch is a weakness that the UK defense can exploit. Completing just 40.9 percent of his passes against a North Carolina defense that was one of the worst in the country just one year ago. The Gamecocks are also running a new defense this year. The Cats need to capitalize on the players inexperience with the system.

UK senior linebacker Josh Forrest led UK in tackles last season. He was the star of the defense, picking up 15 tackles in season opener and recovering a fumble in the first quarter. Replacing NFL defensive lineman Bud Dupree is proving to be difficult. Jason Hatcher is the Cats best option but he is suspended for the first two games.

Stanley “Boom” Williams ran for a 75-yard touchdown in the first play from scrimmage against UL-Lafayette but only received 10 carries throughout the course of the game. Williams is a key player for the Cats offense, taking pressure off of quarterback Patrick Towles.

Towles finished 16-24 against the Ragin’ Cajuns for 257 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Towles has been successful in offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson’s air raid scheme but Stoops is still looking for improvement from his quarterback.

“…he was just a little bit inconsistent. He had some great throws and some explosive plays but just missed some opportunities,” Stoops said.

There is no question that the Cats are a work in progress and improvements need to be made quickly if the Cats want to make it to a bowl game for the first time since 2010 and win the second game of the season for the 18th consecutive year.