UK comes from behind to upset South Carolina 31-28



For 58 minutes and 45 seconds of football, it looked like a slow start was going to result in heartbreak for the UK football team for the third consecutive week.

But with the Cats trailing 28-23 and facing 4th-and-7, UK senior quarterback Mike Hartline connected with junior wide receiver Randall Cobb for a go-ahead 24-yard touchdown pass with 1:15 left in the game to erase an 18-point halftime deficit and lift UK (4-3, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) over the 10th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (4-2, 2-2 SEC).

It was the Cats first win over a ranked opponent since 2007 when the Cats defeated No. 1 LSU 43-37 in triple overtime in Commonwealth Stadium. The win also snapped a 10-game losing streak to South Carolina and marked the first time a Steve Spurrier coached team lost to UK.

“I had an emotional moment in the locker room. Finally. Finally, we came through,” said Cobb, whose winning touchdown also marked the 33rd touchdown of his career, a UK record. “We never lost faith. We never for one second thought we were going to lose that game. We’ve had struggles at time, but we found a way to win.”

The Cats entered the game after losing by a combined 10 points in their past two SEC games (versus Ole Miss and Auburn), in which the Cats came up short after trying to mount a comeback from double-digit deficits in both games.

For a split second the winning touchdown was in the balance as Hartline took a major hit as he threw the eventual touchdown pass to Cobb, who was wide open to stroll into the end zone and also ran in the two-point conversion after the touchdown. He finished with eight catches for 63 yards.

“Most of the game I was being double covered, I had two men shadowing me, and (fellow UK receiver) Chris (Matthews) was having an amazing game,” Cobb said. “On that last play, Chris ran a little sit route and I ran a corner (route), and the safety and corner jumped Chris because he was making plays all night and they just left me wide open.”

So wide open was Cobb that his quarterback couldn’t believe what had happened.

“I was blown away because I really didn’t know with the ball coming out my hand what to expect…because I got hit right afterward,” said Hartline, who finished 32-of-42 for a career-high 349 yards and career-high four touchdowns. “Sometimes it’s just better to be lucky than good.”

History was against the Cats entering this game, considering the streaks that Spurrier and the Gamecocks sported against the Cats, but luck seemed to be going against the Cats early this week, too; the Cats started the game without star defensive end DeQuin Evans and star tailback Derrick Locke due to injuries.

Then, the Gamecocks, who came to Lexington on the heels of an upset over then-No.1 Alabama, jumped out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.

A 10-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver La’Rod King to open the second quarter brought the Cats back within a touchdown, but the Gamecocks responded with two touchdowns by freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore, which sandwiched a 26-yard Craig McIntosh field goal, for a 28-10 lead at halftime.

Overall, the UK defense had surrendered 369 yards at halftime, but UK head coach Joker Phillips said he was pleased with how his defense responded.

“All they did is come out in the second half and give up 103 yards and throw a shutout to one of the best offenses in the country,” Phillips said.

The Gamecocks’ offense was without the services of Lattimore for much of the second half. Lattimore, who gashed the UK defense for 73 rushing yards, 133 receiving yards and three touchdowns before halftime, sustained a sprained ankle on his second carry in the third quarter and would not return.

The Cats’ defense forced two three-and-outs in the second half and preserved the significance of Cobb’s touchdown catch with a big interception in the closing seconds.

After Cobb’s touchdown, USC started its final drive at its own 31-yard line. Three completed passes later, in addition to a scramble by USC quarterback Stephen Garcia, and the Gamecocks were at UK ‘s 20-yard line and within range for a tying field goal.

With 11 seconds left Garcia lobbed a pass into the endzone, which was deflected by sophomore cornerback Cartier Rice and then intercepted by junior cornerback Anthony Mosley marking the first time UK stopped an opponent from scoring in the red zone this year (24-of-25).

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Postgame interviews of UK vs. South Carolina

“It felt amazing,” Mosley said. “When you hear the crowd and everyone is into it and we crack the record books, it felt really good not only for our team but for this state as well.”

After Mosley sealed the victory with his interception in the end zone, the 67,995 fans, or at least those that had not left at halftime, erupted into raucous cheers in Commonwealth Stadium, literally shaking the stadium to its foundation.

Many fans pushed past the security ropes and stormed the field when the final whistle blew, waving a giant UK flag at midfield, as they joined a jubilant group of UK players and coaches.

“I’m still shaking,” Phillips said. “It was a big win. We’ve got to get wins. At 5-3, we’ll have a chance to win the (SEC) East…the only way we (could) get to 5-3 is by winning tonight.”

Game notes

Hartline became the eighth player in UK history to reach 4,000 yards passing in his career…junior linebacker Danny Trevathan led UK with 11 tackles; he has led the team in tackling in six of its seven games…King had his first two-touchdown game of his career…Matthews’ 12 receptions is tied for the second most receptions in a game in UK history…His 12 catches for 177 yards were both career highs.