Gamecocks’ comeback not enough to catch Wildcats

uscfoot-dSouth Carolina opened the 2015 home season Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium with a wild 26-22 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats (2-0, 1-0 SEC) despite a furious second-half comeback attempt by the Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1 SEC).

After Kentucky dominated the first half for a 24-7 lead, the Gamecock defense came out on a mission to start the second half and quickly forced Kentucky’s first punt of the game. A low, spiraling punt would be returned for 24 yards by Pharoh Cooper to set up the offense.

Perry Orth would take the reins of the offense after Mitch was diagnosed with a shoulder injury, and he and Cooper would connect to get the team back into the redzone. Carolina would later settle for a 27-yard field goal to get back on the scoreboard, trailing 24-10.

Kentucky would go three-and-out again to set up the Gamecocks just shy of midfield. A 34-yard run for Brandon Wilds on the first play of the drive would keep sliding the momentum little by little. The drive would stall inside the 15 again, though, leading to another Fry field goal and a 24-13 game.

The Wildcats continued to be stymied on offense, going three-and-out on its third straight drive of the half with four minutes to go in the third and the Gamecocks took over with the comeback attempt thriving. Strong runs from Shon Carson would put them down to the two yard line, but a penalty would set them back.

As the third quarter came to a close, the Gamecocks held a 136-22 advantage in yards gained in the 15-minute span, but were still in search of that elusive touchdown. The penalty would ultimately come back to cost them and a third straight drive would be sealed by a field goal.

After a fourth-straight punt from Kentucky, the Gamecocks would use some clutch throws from Orth to finally hit pay-dirt. Facing a third-and-12 on their own 33, Orth hit Cooper for 16. Later in the drive, he connected with Deebo Samuel for 10 on fourth-and-two, and on the very next play Jerell Adams took a post route 33 yards for the score and a 24-22 game. It was Orth’s first career touchdown pass.

On the team’s two-point attempt to try and tie the game, Cooper would fumble and Kentucky took it 98 yards for two points of their own and a 26-22 advantage. It would be a game-defining play, as it meant the Gamecocks needed a touchdown to complete the comeback.

The Wildcats would convert their first first down of the half with eight minutes to go, trying to respond to Carolina’s comeback. It would go no further than that, but put 89 yards in front of the Gamecocks with just seven minutes left to go. What started as a healthy drive would be stopped after Orth was intercepted at the Kentucky 23 after being flushed from the pocket. The Wildcats were able to seal the win after a pair of first downs burned Carolina’s remaining timeouts.

Photo courtesy of USC Athletics

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