Kemp's Three Touchdowns Lead Kentucky Past South Carolina
LEXINGTON, Ky. - A late interception returned for a touchdown led the Kentucky football team to its biggest win of the Mark Stoops era with a 45-38 victory over South Carolina Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium.
In front of 62,135, Patrick Towles threw for 208 yards and a touchdown and Jojo Kemp had 131 yards rushing and three scores - most of them out of the Wildcat formation - to lead the Wildcats to their second consecutive Southeastern Conference victory. Kentucky improved to 4-1 and 2-1 in league play, while South Carolina fell to 3-3 and 2-2 in the SEC.
UK has two conference wins for the first time since 2011, and won back-to-back SEC contests for the first time since 2006 when the Wildcats won three consecutive league outings.
Kentucky found itself down by two scores twice, but continued to battle back. It was the second time, early in the fourth quarter, having given up 21 unanswered points that was the game changer.
UK’s offense found the end zone on consecutive drives following USC’s final score, both Kemp touchdown runs, to tie the game at 38-38.
It was on South Carolina’s possession after Kentucky tied the game that the UK defense made its biggest statement yet. With the Gamecocks on their own 20-yard line, Alvin “Bud” Dupree intercepted a tipped pass on the six-yard line. The senior went untouched into the end zone for the game winning touchdown. UK’s first interception returned for a score since 2009 gave the Wildcats a 45-38 lead with 2:29 left.
The Kentucky defense again had a crucial stop, an Ashely Lowery interception on UK’s 30 yard line with just over 1:30 to play that all-but sealed the Wildcats victory.
Still South Carolina had three timeouts remaining, but this was to be Kemp’s night. The sophomore running back converted a 3rd and 1 near midfield to officially clinch the win with just under a minute remaining.
Kemp finished with 131 yards running on 17 carries, but his three touchdowns were the major contribution. Stoops awarded Kemp the game ball, the first time the UK coach has given such an honor to one of his players during his tenure.
The Wildcats return to Commonwealth Stadium next Saturday vs. ULM. Set for a noon kickoff, the contest will air on the SEC Network.
To open the second half, Kentucky used some trickery to take its first lead of the game. On the ninth play of the opening drive, Kemp pitched to Towles on the reverse, who hit a wide open Ryan Timmons for the 48-yard score.
The Gamecocks, who had given up 17 unanswered points, responded just 1:58 later with a touchdown of their own on a 25-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 24-24. UK punted on its next two possessions, and South Carolina scored on each of the following drives to take a 38-24 lead.
Kentucky though, having given up 21 unanswered points, responded on the next drive with a touchdown of their own to get to within seven at 38-31. A one-yard rush from Kemp capped the seven-play, 47-yard drive. Six of the seven plays were rushes by Kemp.
Down by seven with just over eight minutes remaining, the UK defense forced USC to punt to set up the Wildcats’ game-tying touchdown drive.
Kentucky got the ball on its own 25 and, led by Kemp, marched down the field in 3:12. The seven-play drive, with Kemp rushing for all but one of the drive’s 75 yards, was capped by Kemp’s third touchdown of the night.
The Wildcats first got on the board with a three-yard rushing touchdown by Kemp with 9:15 left to cut South Carolina’s lead in half. The touchdown, his second of the season, capped a six-play, 52-yard drive that took 2:18, having begun on UK’s 48-yard line and included two pass completions by Towles, for 19 and 14 yards.
After a Gamecock field goal to put them ahead, 17-7, the Wildcats answered on the ensuing drive with a three-play, 73-yard touchdown drive. A 15-yard run by Braylon Heard and a 20-yard pass from Towles to Robinson set up Heard’s 38-yard touchdown run.
On the following possession, South Carolina orchestrated a nine-play, 60-yard drive, which was extended to the UK 15-yard line after a pass interference call extended the drive. The very next play though, A.J. Stamps made up for the defensive penalty with an interception and a return of 50 yards.
Stamps’ pick, the third of the season for the junior college transfer, gave the UK offense 22 seconds left in the half. Towles completed two passes, including one for 23-yards to Garrett Johnson to set up a 47-yard field goal attempt with seconds remaining. Austin MacGinnis’ kick was just enough to tie the game at 17-17 heading into halftime.
South Carolina scored the first 14 points of the game, with touchdowns on its first two possessions. A Mike Davis one-yard run capped a 19-play, 79-yard drive to open the night to give the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead. After Kentucky punted on its next possession, Davis scored from two yards out to end a 72-yard drive 18 seconds into the second quarter.