Date story was published: Sunday, October 8, 2000
After watching his team put together the second-worst offensive performance in his tenure last week against Mississippi, Kentucky Coach Hal Mumme had to be thrilled to see his offense return to form in the first half against South Carolina last night.
Unfortunately for Mumme, the dull, stagnant attack that was seen in Oxford reappeared in the second half.
The Cats led 17-13 at intermission but were shut out over the final 30 minutes, as the Gamecocks made a 58-yard touchdown run by Derek Watson in third quarter hold up in a 20-17 win before 69,334 fans at chilly Commonwealth Stadium.
It was the third straight loss for the Cats, who dropped to 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the Southeastern Conference.
"I didn't have a whole lot to say (to the team)," said a somber Mumme in the post-game news conference. "This is horrible. We need to win a game."
It was the fifth win in six games for the Gamecocks, who continue their stunning turnaround from last year's 0-11 debacle.
"We beat a good Kentucky team," South Carolina Coach Lou Holtz said. "We caught well, we ran well, and we passed well. The team deserves a lot of credit."
UK faces an uphill battle to become bowl-eligible. The Cats must take four of their final five games against a schedule that includes SEC West Division front-runner Mississippi State, East Division co-leader Georgia and perennial power Tennessee.
"It's going to be tough," defensive tackle Jeremy Caudill said. "But most of this team believes that we can go to a bowl. It is going to be a tough journey, though."
The much-maligned UK defense came through with one of its better performances of the season, recovering two South Carolina fumbles and limiting the Gamecocks to 387 yards of offense, the second-lowest total of the season for enemy offenses.
In light of the defensive performance, Mumme called his team's offensive showing "very unfortunate."
"I thought our defense played well enough for us to win," he said. "They really showed true grit and withstood a pretty good offense."
Besides Watson's touchdown run, the only other breakdown came on one of the more bizarre plays in recent memory.
On first-and-10 from the UK 44, South Carolina quarterback Phil Petty dropped back and lofted a pass to Brian Scott, who caught the ball at about the 25 and then sprinted away from safety David Johnson, who appeared to back away from the 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver as he pranced into the end zone to give the Gamecocks a 10-7 first-quarter lead.
Scott finished with eight catches for 157 yards.
Seth Hanson's 21-yard field goal three minutes before intermission capped a 10-0 run that made it 17-10 UK, but the Gamecocks got a chip-shot 20-yard field goal from Reid Bethea at the halftime horn to go into the locker room down only four.
The Cats' offense came out clicking on all cylinders early.
On their first possession, Lorenzen marched the Cats 68 yards on just seven plays, culminating in a 2-yard keeper by the 6-4, 285-pounder to give UK a 7-3 lead with 5:40 left in the first quarter.
Lorenzen, who also threw a 2-yard touchdown to Neal Brown in the second quarter, went 16-of-21 for 139 yards in the first two periods.
But it was deep in Gamecock territory early in the third quarter that the Wildcat attack began to lose its zip.
Lorenzen drove the team 72 yards to the South Carolina 2-yard line on UK's opening possession of the half. But on first-and-goal, he tried to hit Quentin McCord on a fade route in the left corner of the end zone only to have Sheldon Brown come up with the interception with 10:40 remaining.
Lorenzen's next interception would prove to be the turning point of the game. With UK driving and looking to pad its 17-13 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter, he was picked off again by Brown, this time at the South Carolina 6-yard line.
"Jared was just trying to make too many big plays, especially on the two interceptions," Mumme said. "On the first one, you just have to give credit to their defensive back. That was just great athleticism. The second one was just a misread."
After Brown returned the interception to the South Carolina 42, Watson took a sweep right and bolted 58 yards untouched into the end zone on the very next play to make it 20-17 Gamecocks with 1:38 left in the third period.
Watson, a 6-1, 210-pound sophomore, finished with 149 yards on 23 carries.
But the Gamecocks had a hard time slamming the door after Watson's touchdown run. Reid Bethea misfired on a 38-yard field goal with 6:23 left in the game, giving the Cats the ball on their own 21. But on fourth-and-2 from the UK 41, Lorenzen was stopped a yard short on a quarterback sneak.
The Cats weren't quite dead yet, though.
The UK defense forced the Gamecocks to go three-and-out, giving the offense the ball back on its own 12 with 2:19 remaining.
Lorenzen then completed a 27-yarder to Derek Abney to get the Cats to the South Carolina 47, and then UK was hit with some good fortune.
Brown appeared to have a read on his third interception of the game on a pass intended for Abney, but the ball deflected out of his hands and into the arms of the Wildcats receiver at the Gamecock 30 with 44 seconds on the clock.
But after Scott gained a yard on a draw, Lorenzen was sacked for a loss of 12 back at the UK 41 by Kalimba Edwards, taking the Cats out of field goal range. Out of timeouts, the Cats faced a third-and-21 with 29 seconds left. Lorenzen then threw incomplete on the left side to McCord, and his fourth-down pass under pressure intended for McCord was tipped near the 5-yard line and fell incomplete.
"We just didn't play very well in several key moments," Mumme said. "There were some breakdowns on the field, and the two interceptions really cost us."
Lorenzen finished 34-of-52 for 304 yards and a touchdown, but put much of the blame on himself for UK's offensive woes.
"It's disheartening," he said. "We went down to Florida and put up over 500 yards, and now we have back-to-back weeks where we don't get 400.
"I tried to make too many big plays instead of letting the system work for me. If we let the system work for us, we put up 500 yards easy."