It was somewhat forgotten because of the second half that followed, but A.J. Stamps made a play against South Carolina that may have turned the game.
The Gamecocks were driving in the final minute of the first half, seemingly poised to build on a 17-14 lead, but Stamps had other ideas. On first down from the UK 15, the safety read quarterback Dylan Thompson to perfection, breaking on the ball and intercepting the pass.
By appearances, it seemed as if Stamps had seen the play dozens of times in practice. In reality, he was simply relying on the instincts that have made Stamps a revelation in his first season at UK
"That was my first time seeing that play on the field," Stamps said.
UK would cash in on Stamps' pick and 50-yard return with a long field goal to tie the game at half. The rest, of course, is history, as the Wildcats would go on to score the upset and move to 4-1 on the season.
Stamps, with his knack for diagnosing plays, has been a key cog for a much-improved Kentucky defense. His three interceptions are not only a team high, but they also match UK's entire 2014 total.
Perhaps just as importantly, Stamps' knack for trusting his instincts has earned him a leadership role on the gridiron, but it doesn't stop there.
"(Being a leader means) just coming out, being vocal, and filling (the) leadership shoes... and just helping my teammates out on and off the field," Stamps said.
Stamps came to Kentucky this season as a junior-college transfer from East Mississippi Community College. After winning a national championship as part of the NJCAA's second-ranked defense, Stamps brought a winner's mentality to Lexington, where second-year head coach Mark Stoops' rebuilding effort was already in motion.
"(The coaching staff) talked to me about the future and how bright (it) is... I saw the players that were here that they were counting on," Stamps said. "I just felt comfortable with the coaches and the players, and that's what kind of sold me on coming here to Kentucky."
Without even playing a game, the junior standout's presence could be felt almost instantly.
"The winning mentality that came in this year... kind of influenced some of the players that already were here," Stamps said. "It kind of rubbed off on them and they had a winning mentality, too."
After graduating from JUCO in December, Stamps immediately enrolled at UK last January. According to defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, Stamps' early admission provided him with coveted additional time to prepare for the upcoming season.
"He understands our defense very well," Eliot said. "He was here in the spring. He got a whole spring ball. He was here all summer, and had earned that starting position pretty quick into spring ball. So, he'd been getting the (first-team) reps for a long time."
Along with natural instincts and exceptional athletic ability, preparation is what allows Stamps to play defense with such a high football IQ. The amount of time Stamps spends studying the game off the field leads to an increased comfort level during game situations.
"I feel much more comfortable," Stamps said. "(I'm) getting to know the playbook, as well. We make a couple tweaks here and there every week. I just put a lot more effort into studying (them) and actually sitting down and watching film."
Stamps' performance at safety this season is all the more impressive when one considers that Stamps played cornerback during his two years in JUCO. Thanks to his natural aptitude for vocal leadership, however, the transition has been all but seamless in Stamps' first season at the FBS level.
"(Playing) safety at this level, you make a lot of checks," Stamps said. "You most likely are like the quarterback on the defensive side."
Eliot confirmed his player's sentiment, while praising Stamps' ability as a vocal leader.
"It's critical because your safeties, for the secondary, they're the quarterbacks, and you have to be great communicators," Eliot said. "But, you also have to know what you're doing, think fast, and get it communicated. He's done a tremendous job."
Last year's three-interception total was tied for the worst in the country in 2013. That seems a far cry from Stamps' Wildcats, whose nine total interceptions this season are good for fourth best in America. It became apparent during Kentucky's first game of 2014, when Stamps made a spectacular one-handed pick against UT Martin, that last year was a long time ago.
"A.J. is playing very well. He's one of our best players on our defense and has unbelievable instincts," Eliot said. "He's got a lot of talent, one--and he's got a lot of natural instincts."