Kentucky has won seven of the last eight games with South Carolina. Kentucky is now a consistent Top 25 program in the country and expects to beat the Gamecocks every season. However, it wasn’t always like that.
From when South Carolina joined the SEC in 1992 through 2013, Kentucky had won just six of the 22 games. In that time span, the Wildcats had only had six winning seasons as well. Things changed on October 4, 2014.
Kentucky is coming off a 2-10 season the prior year. South Carolina is coming off a season in which they went 11-2 and finished the season fourth in the final AP Poll. Kentucky has gained early momentum by starting 3-1 with the only loss coming in overtime, in Gainesville against the Florida Gators. The game is a 7:30 kickoff in a sold-out, blacked-out Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky debut’s the famous chrome helmets with black uniforms.
For a while, it felt like more of the same. After two Mike Davis touchdown runs, the score sat at 14-0 in favor of the Gamecocks. From there, it would be a back-and-forth game until the fourth quarter. With 11:45 left in the fourth quarter, a third Mike Davis run would bring the score to 38-24 South Carolina.
After that, running back JoJo Kemp decided to take over the game. Kentucky never looked back. On Kentucky’s first drive of the fourth quarter, featuring as the wildcat quarterback, Kemp recorded six carries for 37 yards and capped it off with a touchdown. South Carolina followed with a punt. On Kentucky’s second drive, Kemp, barely able to breathe, had five carries for 74 yards and another touchdown. After a 43-yard run on the drive, Kemp needed to be carried off the field. He would, of course, come back in to finish the drive with a score. Two plays later, Bud Dupree completed one of the most important plays in Kentucky history.
With 2:29 seconds left in the game; South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson dropped back to pass. Mike Douglas, a defensive lineman, got his hand up and deflected it into the air. For what felt like an eternity, the ball hung in the air and slowly dropped into the hands of Bud Dupree who ran it into the end zone to give the Wildcats a 45-38 lead. South Carolina would not score again.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) September 14, 2017
This game forever changed the program at the University of Kentucky. It made Kentucky feel legit. They proved that they were here to compete with some of the big boys in college football. It was a demonstration to recruits that Kentucky can be “cool” with the chrome helmets and black uniforms. More importantly, though, there was a culture set that night.
“Why Not Us?” – Jojo Kemp (2014) pic.twitter.com/e99384Wzdm
— KY Clips (@KY__Clips) July 22, 2022
Kentucky has now been to six straight bowl games, with four victories, and they are a top 15 team in the country. The 2014 Kentucky vs. South Carolina game not only signaled a changing of the guard in the series, but a shift in perception of the program itself. As JoJo Kemp asked in his post-game interview, “Why not us? Why not Kentucky?”