UK limps to bye week following 54-3 loss to South Carolina

UK arrived in Columbia, S.C. looking to back up its defeat of the South Carolina Gamecocks from a year ago and to end its recent three-game losing streak. By the second quarter, it was apparent that neither would happen, as the Cats found themselves outplayed and out-manned on their way to a 54-3 defeat.

The story from Saturday’s game was the inability of UK’s offense to do anything on offense. The numbers speak for themselves — 96 total yards to South Carolina’s 639, including just 17 yards passing, six first downs and six turnovers.

Junior quarterback Morgan Newton was 4-of-21 passing for all 17 passing yards and an interception. Newton was benched again in the third quarter in favor of Maxwell Smith, his third straight second-half appearance in relief of Newton. Smith, however, did not wow anyone on the field either, going 0-for-3 with interceptions on each of his first two pass attempts.

Smith was removed after three series and Newton was reinserted into the game. Wide receiver Matt Roark, whose one pass attempt came on a gadget play with hopes of catching the South Carolina defense off guard, was the only UK passer on the day not to throw an interception.

Defensively, the Cats’ defense shut down South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore early, but with the offense unable to remain on the field to give the defense a rest, the Gamecocks continually handed the ball to their factor back to the tune of 22 carries for 102 yards.

The surprise of the game offensively for South Carolina was quarterback Connor Shaw, who had struggled in his only start of the season in week one against East Carolina. Against UK, Shaw was 26-of-39 for 311 yards and four touchdowns.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier seemed to have revenge on his mind coming off the first loss of his career at the hands of UK last season. Spurrier left his starters in the game for much of the second half despite the result seemingly already having been decided, and instead of kneeling to end the game he elected to call a run inside the UK 10 yard line. The Gamecocks would score on that play, extending their lead to 54-3 to end the game.

After the blowout loss, UK now heads into a much-needed bye week and then returns home for its homecoming game against Jacksonville State. During the bye week, UK head coach Joker Phillips and his coaching staff will have to reassess the team’s offensive struggles and find a way to provide the defense with some relief to the tune of a more functional offense on the field.

Whatever Phillips and his staff decide to do, they will need to do it over the bye week if UK wants to remain in contention for the program’s sixth consecutive bowl appearance.