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At the whistle: Kentucky football suffers 17-14 defeat away at South Carolina

Isaiah Pinto
Kentucky tight end Izayah Cummings (8) goes up for a pass that was intercepted during the Kentucky vs. South Carolina football game on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo by Isaiah Pinto | Staff

Kentucky football (6-5) suffered a 17-14 defeat at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday.

The Wildcats entered the game on the back of a 49-21 loss against No. 8 Alabama in their home finale at Kroger Field.

Looking for a bounce-back opportunity, especially after losing to the Gamecocks in Lexington one year prior, the Cats had the chance to start on offense when the home side won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half.

Things would not start ideally for the Cats, who were forced into a three-and-out on their opening drive.

The Cats quickly found themselves in a hole after the Gamecocks found the endzone on their opening drive of offense.

Kentucky would come out flat on offense once again, punting for a second time and allowing the Gamecocks to extend their lead on the offensive side of the ball.

Luckily for the visiting fans in attendance, the Wildcats were able to get going in the second quarter.

Disaster nearly struck for the Wildcats in the quarter when a late hit on Devin Leary took the starting quarterback out of the game, sending backup Kaiya Sheron under center. Visiting Kentucky fans all but audibly breathed a sigh of relief when the starter was able to return after just a few plays.

While Leary was able to return, things were far from perfect on the field.

While the Cats weren’t punished for the interception, they didn’t clean up their play, with receiver Dane Key fumbling the football on the very next drive.

Carolina struggled to get going on offense and, with Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops seemingly content to go into the half trailing, the score remained 10-7 at the break.

Kentucky came out of the break fired up, forcing a quick punt before Ray Davis could give the Cats their first lead of the night.

Kentucky’s defense would continue to stand tall, with defensive lineman Octavious Oxendine recording a massive sack in the backfield and forcing another South Carolina punt to all but end the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for the Cats, the sturdy defense would falter in the fourth, with the Gamecocks finding the endzone for the second time to retake the lead.

Faced with a crucial drive, Kentucky faltered. A near interception was followed by an incompletion and a delay of game, forcing the Cats to punt and rely on the defense.

The defense did its part, getting South Carolina to punt with over two minutes remaining on the clock, sending Leary and the offense onto the field.

With the opportunity for a game-winning drive, Leary fumbled the football, with the Gamecocks recovering the ball and securing the victory in the game.

The Wildcats will conclude their regular season on Saturday, Nov. 25, against their rivals, the Louisville Cardinals, in Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. Kickoff against Louisville is TBD.

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Cole Parke, Sports Editor

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