Gamecocks overcome slow start, defeat Wildcats

Kentucky Wildcats cornerback Martavius Neloms (1) tackles South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Ace Sanders (1) during the first half at Commonwealth Stadium. (Mark Zerof-US PRESSWIRE)

If one were to just watch the first half of the South Carolina vs. Kentucky game Saturday, they would have probably thought the Wildcats were the sixth-ranked team in the country and that the Gamecocks were the worst team in the SEC.

Poor defense and a costly misfired snap put USC in a 17-7 hole at halftime. It could have easily been 24-7 after Gamecocks defensive lineman Aldrick Fordham strip sacked UK quarterback Jalen Whitlow near the end of the first half. USC failed to pick up the fumble and a Kentucky player scooped up the loose ball five yards away from the endzone. However, USC sophomore defensive back Victor Hampton made a touchdown-saving tackle to keep the deficit at ten points.

That would be the last opportunity that Kentucky would have to score the rest of the game as the Gamecocks came out in the second half and played like the No. 6 team that they are. USC outscored UK 31-0 in the second half en route to a 38-17 win that should have been a lot easier than it was.

[Related: AP Poll released for Week 6, five SEC teams in Top 10]

Facing a fourth-and-inches from around midfield, USC head coach Steve Spurrier decided opted to try for the first down. However, senior center TJ Johnson’s snap went over the head of quarterback Connor Shaw, setting the Wildcats up with great field position.

Luckily for the Gamecocks, UK didn’t get any points from the miscue and USC dominated the rest of the game. Lattimore led the Gamecocks offense, rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Spurrier went to the I-formation in the second half and relied on the star junior to put the game away. In the post game press conference, Spurrier hinted that the Gamecocks may run more of that formation this week against No. 5 Georgia.

Speaking of those Bulldogs, USC will need to avoid a slow start next Saturday. If the Gamecocks first half against UGA is anything like it was against UK, USC will be down 21 points at halftime. It’s possible that USC was overlooking the lowly Wildcats with one of the marquee match-ups of the season on the horizon.

Now that the Gamecocks have gotten past Kentucky, they can focus all their attention on the Bulldogs, who USC has beaten two years in a row.

More Gamecocks >> College GameDay headed to Columbia for South Carolina vs Georgia