The South Carolina Gamecocks tried to shake off a rough start, but simply couldn't overcome a poor first half as a late interception by backup quarterback Perry Orth helped the Kentucky Wildcats clinch a 26-22 victory at Williams-Brice Stadium, the first time since the 1998 and 1999 seasons that they have defeated the Gamecocks in back-to-back seasons.
Orth came on late in the first half after an injury to starter Connor Mitch. With the Gamecocks in the red zone, Mitch fumbled the football and landed hard on his shoulder, spraining it and putting him out for the rest of the game. But that was just part of Carolina's struggles on this night. Kentucky ran the ball down the Gamecocks' throat in the first half.
Things started well enough for the home team. After a Skai Moore interception set up a short Mitch touchdown run, the Wildcats took over, picking up 176 yards on the ground en route to a 24-7 halftime lead. Mikel Horton and Jojo Kemp had a score each, while Patrick Towles scored on a keeper after a Kentucky field goal to give the Wildcats a comfortable cushion in the game's first thirty minutes.
It was a tale of two halves for the Gamecocks' defense. After a first half in which they allowed 329 yards of offense, they held the Wildcats to just two yards in the third quarter and forced four straight three and outs. But the offense, while looking more comfortable with Perry Orth at the helm, had to settle for three third quarter field goals to cut it to 24-16. The Gamecocks finally found the end zone with 8:09 left in the fourth on a 33-yard pass from Perry Orth to Jerell Adams - Orth's first career touchdown - but on the resulting two-point conversion, Pharoh Cooper fumbled it and the Wildcats ran it all the way back for two points of their own to make it 26-22. It looked like the Gamecocks would threaten to score once more, but after the defense forced another punt, Orth threw an interception and Kentucky was able to run the clock out for a win.
Orth finished with a respectable 13 for 20 for 179 yards. Brandon Wilds had sixteen carries for 106 yards, while Pharoh Cooper had nine catches for 100 yards.
The Gamecocks look to get back in the win column next week as they face a tough Georgia team at Sanford Stadium in Athens. Kickoff for that one is set for 6pm and will be on ESPN.