Kentucky lost this Saturday to the South Carolina Gamecocks by a score of 24-14. It was a disastrous night as the Wildcats fell apart without leaders on offense and defense due to injuries. Let’s comb through this game to find a winner and discuss the many losers.
WINNER: Chris Rodriguez Jr.
There weren’t many winners from this game. In fact, there is only one, so let’s get it out of the way first. Chris Rodriguez Jr. came to play Saturday. In his second game back from suspension, he finished with 126 yards on 22 carries. He was the offense. Despite starting the game without Will Levis and Jeremy Flax and losing all three starting receivers at various points in the game, Rodriguez was still able to carve up the Gamecock defense. However, he only got six carries in the second half. That was inexcusable given the state of the offense. Don’t worry, though, we will discuss this further later.
Kentucky's Chris Rodriguez Jr. finishes the game with 22 carries for 126 rushing yards.
Had 16 carries and 97 rushing yards at the half.
Game finishes as the 8th best rushing performance of his career.
— Cameron Drummond (@cdrummond97) October 9, 2022
This was a big recruiting night for the Wildcats. There were plenty of important recruits at Kroger Field to see Kentucky put on a show. The exact opposite happened. They were demolished and fans were leaving early. I am not saying that this will have a direct impact on recruiting. However, it was not a good look whatsoever and could have a ripple effect down the line.
It was an unfortunate performance from the defense on Saturday night. Coming into the game without Will Levis, this was going to have to be a game where the defense put the team on their backs and carried them to a victory. That did not happen. South Carolina averaged 5.8 yards per play, and they missed 12 tackles. That is the most they had missed all season. South Carolina also converted on countless third and longs throughout the night. It was just a really disappointing performance from a defense that we know is better than what they put on the field.
Kentucky missed a season-high 12 tackles in the loss to South Carolina, per PFF data. The Cats missed just 6 tackles last week facing Lane Kiffin's spread tempo offense at Ole Miss.
— Adam Luckett (@AdamLuckettKSR) October 9, 2022
The offense was putrid. It was expected to take a massive hit when it was revealed that quarterback Will Levis and right tackle Jeremy Flax would miss the game. They fumbled on a botched play on the first play of the game. They drove down inside the South Carolina 30 yard-line, stalled out, and missed the field goal attempt. They were forced to punt six times against a mediocre South Carolina defense. They punted on the first three drives of the second half. Backup quarterback Kaiya Sheron was thrust into action, and he was shaky in his first college start. He was put in a difficult position. All things considered; he wasn’t horrible. He took some bad sacks and missed some throws. He looked like a freshman in his first start. The people around him didn’t help him very much. Overall, even with a backup quarterback in the game, they should’ve scored more than 14 points, and they should’ve been in control of this game from the opening kickoff. Something isn’t working, and it needs to be fixed.
You know how I said that we’d discuss the fact that Chris Rodriguez Jr. only got six second half carries? Here we are. It is unacceptable that there were only six rush attempts with the best player on your offense when you are without your starting quarterback. The play calling in this game was just questionable from the get-go. Starting the game with a botched reverse play that resulted in seven points for South Carolina was just disastrous and really set the tone for the entire night. It wasn’t just the offense that looked bad, though. The defense missed the most tackles they had missed all season. They looked unprepared and outclassed in all aspects of the game.
LOSER: SEC Championship Aspirations
Remember when we thought that Kentucky had a real chance to win the SEC East? It wasn’t that long ago. Even after beating themselves in Oxford, Mississippi against the Ole Miss Rebels, they still controlled their own destiny in the East. That no longer exists. The loss to South Carolina puts a real wrench in all the plans going forward. The ceiling for this team now likely resides at third in the SEC East.
All in all, it was a horrible night for the Kentucky football program. Hopefully, they can quickly wake up from this nightmare and beat Mississippi State when the Bulldogs travel to Lexington next Saturday night at Kroger Field.