In a series that has recently been defined by one running back taking over the game — and, most frequently, that running back wearing Kentucky blue — the South Carolina Gamecocks got a long-awaited taste of that themselves, as MarShawn Lloyd powered them past the Wildcats in a cathartic 24-14 victory that was USC’s first win in Lexington since 2012 and extended the program’s first three-game winning streak since 2017.
The game got off to a wildly positive start for the Gamecocks, as Tonka Hemingway and company forced a fumble on Kentucky’s very first play and rumbled deep into Wildcat territory to set up a 2-yard MarShawn Lloyd touchdown, making it 7-0 within about 15 seconds of game time. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks wasted two subsequent opportunities to apply pressure — a blocked punt ultimately resulted in a Spencer Rattler fumble, and another successful drive into the red zone ended in a turnover on downs — and Kentucky bounced back with a 16-yard scoring strike from backup quarterback Kaiya Sheron to Jordan Dingle to knot the game at 7.
After South Carolina’s defense stood tall, Rattler tossed an interception that once again came in plus territory, although the Gamecocks escaped further damage when the half came to a close, leaving the score 7-7.
Fortunately, South Carolina started the second half in exactly the way it needed to, when Antwane Wells Jr. took a screen pass 42 yards to put the Gamecocks in the end zone and up 14-7. After another defensive stop, USC added to its lead with a 32-yard Mitch Jeter field goal, which had the added bonus of killing most of the third quarter clock in one of the first sustained drives the South Carolina offense had mounted this season.
The two teams traded punts for the first half of the fourth quarter, then Lloyd burst through for a 45-yard scamper that set up a 24-yard reverse to Jalen Brooks, who blew a kiss in the end zone while staking the Gamecocks to a 24-7 advantage. Kentucky answered, though, when JuTahn McClain slipped an attempted tackle on fourth down for a 10-yard score that made it 24-14. Even when South Carolina recovered the Cats’ onside kick attempt, Gamecock fans couldn’t let out a breath, as USC couldn’t sustain a game-ending drive and needed to punt once again. Fortunately, David Spauling put an immediate end to any Kentucky threat, picking off Sheron and allowing the Gamecocks to bleed out the clock.
South Carolina (4-2, 1-2 SEC) heads into its bye week with coach Shane Beamer’s first win against a ranked opponent under its belt, and will next face Texas A&M.