For a Kentucky offense still searching for an identity, the running game might be it.
Against a stout Alabama defense last week, the Cats pounded out 133 yards on 38 attempts. Those are not overwhelming numbers, but considering the total was more than twice what any other opponent had gained on the Tide, it could be something on which to build.
A big part of the emergence of the UK running game is Derrick Locke. In the summer, the Cats weren't even sure if Locke would be available, as he was recovering from reconstructive surgery to repair two torn knee ligaments. But Locke has looked good as new so far.
He carried 20 times for 75 yards against Alabama and also caught six passes for 63 yards. He ranks 10th in the nation in all-purpose yards.
Kentucky hasn't had a 100-yard rusher since Rafael Little picked up 152 yards on 28 carries against Florida State in the 2007 Music City Bowl.
UK has relied on multiple tailbacks since Little left after the FSU game. Locke's 20 carries against Alabama were the most by a UK back since then.
Coach Rich Brooks said Locke has the potential to be a consistent 100-yard rusher but noted that the coaching staff has to be careful, considering Locke is coming off an injury and is a small back at 5-foot-9, 190 pounds.
"I just think he's a really good football player," Brooks said.
"For the most part we've not been giving guys enough carries to get 100 yards. Maybe he'll end up carrying it more, but you also need to make sure you're staying healthy."
No. 2 tailback Alfonso Smith will wear a splint on his sprained right thumb. Smith said he's been working on carrying the ball with his left hand during practice.
Homecoming for seven
Head coach of offense Joker Phillips was an assistant at South Carolina in 2002 and developed some recruiting ties during his short time there, as evidenced by the seven South Carolina players on the UK roster: safety Matt Lentz, defensive tackle Antwane Glenn, linebacker Antonio Thomas, safety Calvin Harrison, receiver Gene McCaskill, cornerback Cartier Rice and defensive end Taylor Wyndham.
"The state of South Carolina has been good to us," Phillips said. "There are a lot of great athletes there, and it's an area we'll continue to recruit heavily."
Harrison said he grew up more of a Clemson fan than South Carolina, but a win would be nice for bragging rights when he goes home.
"I've got some friends and family who are South Carolina fans, and they tell me all the time about how South Carolina is going to beat us again," he said. "It would be nice to have something to brag about myself this time."
Big Blue Meter
The Wildcats desperately need a win to stem the tide after back-to-back losses to Florida and Alabama. Knocking off the Gamecocks in Columbia would provide a much-needed confidence jolt heading into another tough road game at Auburn next week and prevent what many people feel is an inevitable 2-4 record when they return home for Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 24.