Struggling South Carolina, Kentucky hope to end on high note
Two teams that want a win to close struggling seasons will be matched when Kentucky hosts South Carolina in a Southeastern Conference game Saturday night in Lexington.
The Wildcats (3-6, 3-6 SEC) have been outscored 97-13 in losses at Alabama and Florida in the past two weeks, and the Gamecocks (2-7, 2-7) are on a five-game losing streak, including their past two since coach Will Muschamp was fired after a 59-42 loss at Ole Miss.
South Carolina has dropped 17-10 and 45-16 decisions to Missouri and Georgia, respectively, under interim coach Mike Bobo.
“Obviously, this year has been very frustrating and has not gone the way we’ve wanted it to,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “It’s been very well-documented how it’s been very different and how unsettling it is and disappointing, so hopefully we can finish up the right way.”
Kentucky’s most recent win was 38-35 over Vanderbilt on Nov. 14, and even that one is somewhat tainted by the number of points the Wildcats gave up. It was a season high for the winless Commodores, who have been held to a touchdown or less three times this season.
The Wildcats also have victories over Mississippi State (24-2 score) and Tennessee (34-7).
Injuries have had an impact. Quarterback Terry Wilson missed one game — a 20-10 loss to Missouri — and linebacker J.J.Weaver, who started last week at Florida, will miss Saturday’s finale because of a reported torn ACL.
“He was arguably playing just as good as anybody on our team,” Stoops said, “so it’s disappointing.”
And, of course, the Wildcats have had to deal with COVID-19 issues.
“We have 26 to 27 people in this building who have it right now, but we’re still competing and we’re playing by the rules,” Stoops said. “Again, we’re not gonna duck anybody and we’re gonna play. That’s the way I’ve always been. That’s the way we’re gonna do it.”
Cornerback Kelvin Joseph (team-high four interceptions this year), however, has decided not to play the final game in order to prepare for the NFL draft.
The Gamecocks, meanwhile, could have leading receiver Shi Smith (54 catches, 605 yards) back after he sat out the Georgia game with a concussion. But Bobo said defensive lineman Kingsley “J.J.” Enagbare (COVID-19), the SEC sacks leader with six, and linebacker Ernest Jones (leg injury), the team’s leading tackler with 86 stops, are out.
Running back Kevin Harris is on the verge of becoming South Carolina’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Mike Davis had 1,183 yards in 2013. Harris is in line for the feat despite playing just a 10-game schedule against all SEC opponents. He has 928 yards on 164 carries in nine games.
“I think it’s a goal that is on our kids’ minds and not just Kevin,” Bobo said. “It’s something that the offense takes pride in, especially the offensive line and the running backs. They know how close he is and know what he has meant to this football team offensively in the run game and pass game. They want to see him get to 1,000 yards.”
–Field Level Media