Date published: Friday, October 10, 2003
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Just when you thought the Kentucky Wildcats had run out of ways to torture themselves, they came up with something new.
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Less than two weeks after coming from ahead to lose a heartbreaker to Florida, UK came out and sleepwalked its way to a 27-7 deficit through three quarters against South Carolina last night.
A stunning fourth-quarter rally led by backup quarterback Shane Boyd brought the Cats to within six points with 6:05 left. But, in the end, Kentucky was again left wondering what might have been as the Gamecocks held on for a 27-21 victory in front of 78,592 fans and an ESPN television audience.
Kentucky seemed dead after Daccus Turman's third short touchdown run of the game left the Gamecocks with a 20-point cushion with 1:30 remaining in the third quarter. Adding to the Wildcats' misery was the fact that quarterback Jared Lorenzen was forced to leave the game with a concussion on the final play of the third period after taking a shot to the helmet from defensive end Moe Thompson.
Replays showed the hit took place after Lorenzen had released the ball, and UK Coach Rich Brooks was incensed after the game that no penalty was called. Brooks also took exception with what he felt was a late hit on Lorenzen earlier in the game after the Gamecocks recovered a Draak Davis fumble in the third quarter.
"The officials are supposed to protect the players, particularly the quarterback and particularly a good quarterback like Jared Lorenzen," Brooks said. "There is no excuse for any official to miss those hits."
Lorenzen said the last thing he remembered about the play was trying to get the ball to Derek Abney. Lorenzen said he was in a fog on the sideline for the rest of the game.
But Boyd, who had seen limited action at quarterback after throwing an interception in the season opener against Louisville, stepped in for Lorenzen and played the best ball of his UK career.
He led the Cats on a 53-yard drive and threw a 7-yard TD pass to Chris Bernard to cut the lead to 27-14 with 10:16 remaining. After the UK defense forced a three-and-out on South Carolina's next possession, Boyd needed just seven plays to guide Kentucky back into the end zone. He recovered his own fumbled snap and scampered 15 yards for a touchdown that brought the Cats to within 27-21 with 6:05 left, stunning the Williams-Brice Stadium crowd.
Boyd finished 7-for-14 passing for 81 yards and a touchdown and also ran nine times for 73 yards and a score.
"You've got to give Boyd credit," Brooks said. "He came in and gave some spark to our offense. He's one of the reasons we got back into the game."
Boyd got a chance to guide the Cats on a game-winning drive when Kentucky got the ball at its own 15 with 2:07 remaining.
But the Cats could only get to its own 34-yard line, and Boyd's fourth-and-8 pass sailed over the outstretched arms of Abney.
The Cats were left to swallow yet another gut-wrenching defeat.
"It sickens me," Brooks said. "It's no fun. Playing close and having moral victories doesn't mean anything to anybody in that locker room."
The game's opening few minutes probably had most of the fans wishing they were across the street taking in the scenery at the South Carolina State Fair. UK went the entire opening quarter without a first down and had more penalty yards (31) than total offense (26).
South Carolina wasn't much better, but the Gamecocks finally ended the offensive ineptitude early in the second quarter. Turman's 1-yard run capped an 11-play, 82-yard drive that gave Carolina a 7-0 lead at the 13:35 mark.
Despite being outgained 234-114 in the first half, UK trailed just 13-7 at intermission.
Turman added two more short runs in the third quarter to give South Carolina a 20-point cushion and set the stage for Boyd's comeback attempt.
But some of the Cats' early mistakes came back to haunt them. UK committed seven first-half penalties, and its biggest offensive play of the night, a 44-yard reception on a screen to Abney, was negated when Davis fumbled a pitchout at the UK 17 that was recovered by Thompson.
With the Cats losing by just six points, that turnover ended up being more costly than anybody could have imagined at the time.
"In the fourth quarter, everybody got excited and thought, `Maybe we can win this thing,' " Brooks said. "It was one of the first times we played well in the fourth quarter--unfortunately it was too late."
* Outside linebacker Durrell White left the game early in the first quarter with a high ankle sprain and did not return. Fellow outside linebacker Raymond Fontaine, who was questionable for last night's game with a sprained foot, played, but White's injury forced UK to go to a 4-3 alignment for most of the second half with Ellery Moore and Trey Mielsch alternating as an extra down lineman.
* Junior Claude Sagaille started at safety in place of regular starter Mike Williams, who missed practice time this week to tend to a family illness. Williams did enter the game in the first quarter and tied with linebacker Chad Anderson for a team-high 11 tackles.
Sagaille was also solid with two pass deflections.