Wildcats score three straight TDs to rally past Gamecocks

uscfoot-28diveIn a game that saw multiple momentum swings at Commonwealth Stadium, South Carolina fell 45-38 to Kentucky as the Wildcats scored 21 unanswered points during the final eight-plus minutes. Defensive end Alvin Dupree gave Kentucky the lead with under three minutes remaining in the game with a six-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Carolina opened the game with the ball and proceeded to use a punishing ground attack that chewed up nearly the first eight minutes that ended with Davis giving the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead with a one-yard touchdown run, his first of three scores on the night. On the drive, South Carolina ran a total of 19 plays, the second-most during the Steve Spurrier era, and 17 of the plays came via the ground, accounting for 70 of the 79 yards.

After getting the ball back just over two minutes later, Carolina nearly lost the ball deep in its own territory on a high snap, but senior quarterback Dylan Thompson was able to fall on the ball. Facing a second-and-18, the Gamecocks went back to the ground, optioning to the left to Davis where the tailback found an open lane and raced out for a 40-yard run to midfield. Thompson was then able to go four-of-four as Carolina continued to march down the field. Davis finished off the drive with a two-yard run to extend the lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter.

With 9:15 on the clock, Kentucky cut the deficit in half as Jojo Kemp finished off a six-play, 52-yard drive with a three-yard run up the middle. The Wildcats held the Gamecocks to a three-and-out on their next possession, but Carolina was able to force a fumble from Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles. South Carolina turned the fumble into points as sophomore kicker Elliott Fry converted on a 31-yard field goal attempt.

It took the Wildcats just 56 seconds though to pull within three at 17-14 with 3:39 remaining in the half as Braylon Heard had rushes of 15 and 38 on the following drive. With time still left on the clock, South Carolina was able to move the ball down to the Kentucky 15-yard line, but an interception, followed by a 50-yard return by A.J. Stamps gave the Wildcats an opportunity to score with under 30 seconds left. With time expiring, Austin MacGinnis converted on a 47-yard field goal to tie the game at 17-17 heading into the half.

Kentucky took its first lead of the night on the opening drive of the second half. On third-and-four from midfield, the Wildcats went to a trick play with the ball exchanging hands three times before Towles, on the edge, found a wide open Ryan Timmons down field for a 48-yard touchdown pass to give the home team a 24-17 advantage.

With Kentucky seizing momentum, Carolina quickly responded with a five-play drive that took just under two minutes as the Gamecocks picked up big chunks of yards through the air and on the ground. Redshirt junior tailback Shon Carson scored his first touchdown of the season with a 25-yard run to tie the game.

After the defense was able to force the Wildcats to punt, the Gamecock offense was back on the move despite starting from its own nine-yard line. Carolina used a steady dose of Davis along with sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper and redshirt freshman running back David Williams to steadily move the ball down the field. Facing a third-and-four at the Kentucky 12-yard line, Thompson found Cooper on the left sideline where the wideout spun back inside and dove to the end zone as the Gamecocks regained the lead at 31-24 with 1:48 left in the third quarter.

Carolina extended the lead to 14 early in the fourth quarter as the offense put together an eight-play drive that Davis capped off with a 26-yard run up the middle for his third touchdown of the game. Kentucky wouldn’t go away though as a 41-yard return on the ensuing kickoff from Demarco Robinson put the Wildcats in South Carolina territory. Seven plays later, with six coming from Kemp, the tailback scored his second touchdown of the night on a one-yard run.

After a 13-yard run from Davis on the opening play of Carolina’s ensuing possession, the Gamecock offense was unable to get another first down and was forced to punt. Kemp continued to bring the Wildcats back as he accounted for 26 yards on three carries before breaking off a 43-yard run down to the six-yard line. The running back equalized the game at 38-38 with 2:46 on the clock with a five-yard run two plays later.

On the second play of the Gamecocks’ ensuing possession, Thompson’s pass was batted up in the air and Dupree came up with the interception and returned it six yards for a touchdown to give Wildcats a 45-38 lead with 2:23 remaining. Attempting to drive down the field and tie the game, Thompson was intercepted by Ashely Lowery with under a minute left on the clock.

Photo courtesy of USC Athletics

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