At least prior to Saturday in the Mark Stoops era, when Kentucky would go down by 14 points they would lose the game. And so to come back twice from 14 points and win, was a novelty for those who have been around Kentucky over the last two years.
To their credit, Stoops' teams never gave up in past close games in which they fell behind, they just never finished the job. The Wildcats fought back valiantly in Southeastern Conference games against favored teams like Mississippi State and South Carolina last year, in addition to a triple-overtime loss at Florida three weeks ago.
So the 2014 Wildcats' ability to fight back from a two-touchdown deficit not once, but twice -- including with less than 12 minutes remaining in the fourth -- made the program-changing victory over the Gamecocks all the more of a milestone.
D.J. Eliot realized that Kentucky had gotten over a hump it had so often struggled to mount since the current staff took over before the 2013 season.
"We've had some some tight games before," the UK defensive coordinator said. "We had a tight game with these guys last year and we didn't win. This year we ended up on the better side. I'm excited about that."
Running back Jojo Kemp, who was the offensive star of the game with three touchdown runs and 131 yards on 17 carries mostly out of the Wildcat formation, summed up just how big the win was for a program that is learning to win in an on-field interview with the SEC Network after the game.
"I came here to change the program. And that's what we're doing," Kemp said. "Why not us? Why not Kentucky?"
Brown gets tricky against the Head Ball Coach
Saturday's win was, for lack of a better term, a "game-changer" when it comes to outward impressions of the UK football program.
In terms of the game itself, a trick play early in the third quarter may just have given UK the confidence it needed to defeat South Carolina for the first time in four years.
Once again out of the Wildcat, from which UK scored all five of its offensive touchdowns, Kemp handed off to wideout Javess Blue, who ran left before pitching back to Patrick Towles. From there the UK quarterback passed 48 yards for a touchdown to Ryan Timmons. The touchdown gave UK its first lead of the game, igniting a season-best crowd of 62,135 as well as a sideline of players already high on belief, but hungry for results.
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown certainly enjoyed executing a trick play against South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier who after all is known for his willingness to take risks.
"To be honest, yeah, it was fun," Brown said of the de facto flea-flicker. "It was the same play we ran against Tennessee. We had it the same and we didn't execute it. It was fun to execute it. That was the first trick play I think we've hit it right since I've been here.
"We used to hit those all the time at (Texas) Tech and Troy. So that was fun. It was a big play in the game. You talk about--that place was loud. When we hit that and Timmons scored, this place was electric."
Forrest played like Williamson
The consensus around the UK defense entering the season held that the Wildcats' strength would be on the defensive line bookended by Bud Dupree and Za'Darius Smith, while the secondary had an injection of talent spearheaded by junior-college transfer A.J. Stamps.
For their part Dupree and Stamps both had interceptions on Saturday, but the UK defense was anchored by junior linebacker Josh Forrest.
The middle linebacker entered the season facing a tall task: replacing Avery Williamson, who became the face of the program and an All-SEC selection in his final two years at UK and now plies his trade on Sundays for the Tennessee Titans.
Forrest, like Williamson last year, is currently the team leader in tackles, but his master class performance came against South Carolina.
The Paducah, Ky., native totaled a career-high 15 tackles, the most by a UK player since Williamson had 15 tackles in 2013 vs. Louisville. And his big game was the second double-digit tackle game of the season, with the other having come in another big SEC game, as he totaled 10 against Florida.
The trend for Forrest bodes well for a UK defense, which didn't play great, but did enough to win.
SEC East ... contenders?
Saturday's result was, in a word, crazy, and the manner in which it occurred fit every bit of that description.
But perhaps the wildest development from Kentucky's fourth win of the season, given the trajectory of the program less than two years ago, was what the victory meant in terms of this season.
Believe it or not, at 4-1 (2-1 in conference play) the Wildcats are right in the thick of the race for the SEC East title.
Yes, a Kentucky team that went 2-10 each of the past two seasons, finds itself just one game behind first-place Missouri (4-1; 1-0 SEC) in the SEC East loss column.
Of course, UK has five conference games remaining (three of them against current AP Top 25 teams in addition to a trip to newly unranked LSU), but the Wildcats are also a triple-overtime game away from being 5-0.
How far UK has come in a short time, and how close UK is to perfection so far this season is not lost on UK's signal caller.
"We are extremely close to being 5-0, which would be unbelievable," Patrick Towles said. "We're 4-1, which is unbelievable. We're going to move forward, we're going to win a lot of games. The tenacity and the passion that we showed tonight is going to win us a lot of football games.
"We're definitely in (the SEC East title race) now. Definitely no question. We're there to stay for sure."