Kentucky was able to put up a serious fight in the first half. The defense looked vastly better than what we have seen this season and the offense was able to pick up the necessary yards to get points on the board. The second half was a completely different game.
Reasons for optimism:
- Jalen Whitlow looked pretty good for a true freshman that was thrust into action early in the first quarter. While I still don’t think he is an upgrade over Smith, it’s hard to argue with the results Whitlow had in the first half.
- This Kentucky offensive line continues to shine and had a fantastic game. Darrian Miller was playing through some injuries and still managed to keep Jadeveon Clowney from taking over the game.
- The running backs ran the ball with power and an authority that neither Jonathan George or Raymond Sanders had shown in the first four games.
- The entire defense looked very good in the first half. Holding an offense as potent as South Carina’s to 7 points in a half is quite a feat.
- The receivers weren’t needed much in this game, but they all came through when they were.
- Serious kudos go out to JD Harmon, Fred Tiller, and Cody Quinn. The trio of freshmen played extensively and plays well against a very good offense.
- On short yardage plays, Tristian Johnson’s ability to submarine the offensive line was fantastic.
Room for improvement:
- This section could be condensed into simply putting “see the second half.”
-Kentucky’s defense was unable to do anything against USC in the second half. It was really as simple as stopping the run, and the Gamecocks just gashed Kentucky as they pleased on the ground.
- The linebackers and defensive line were overpowered, plain and simple.
- The coaching staff, specifically DC Rick Minter have to find some answers. Giving up 31 points in a game is bad, but giving up 31 points in a half (at home) is absurd, regardless of who you’re playing.
- Jalen Whitlow showed some flashes of greatness in the first half, but was unimpressive in the second half, despite relatively good protection.
- The offense was awful in the second half and struggled to get anything going. The staff had to know that USC would come out ready to play after halftime, but unfortunately they couldn’t get the Wildcats ready to go.
Normally I’d say that a 38-17 loss at home is unacceptable, but its hard to be too upset. The Gamecocks are a top ten team and probably should have beaten Kentucky worse than they did. When a team loses its starting QB and has to trow in a true freshman under center against the #6 team in the country, that coincidentally has one of the best pass rushes Kentucky fans will EVER see and still comes out with only a three touchdown loss, it’s not all bad. Realistically, I and most other rational fans knew that beating USC was a pipe dream before Smith went out, and I’m happy that Kentucky was even in the game for three quarters. If this UK team can manage to give the same performance they gave against South Carolina for the first half against Mississippi State for the whole 60 minutes, we could be very happy a week from now.