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UK SQUANDERS ITS CHANCES

Date story was published: Sunday, October 13, 2002

Rarely does a 10-point halftime lead feel as hollow as the one Kentucky took into the locker room against South Carolina last night.

The Wildcats spent virtually the entire first half in Gamecocks territory, yet allowed Lou Holtz's squad to walk into halftime with a pulse.

Sure enough, the missed opportunities came back to bite the Cats. The Gamecocks outscored UK 16-2 after intermission to come away with a wild and wacky 16-12 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 70,547 at Commonwealth Stadium.

Coming into the game, the UK offense led the Southeastern Conference in drive efficiency, scoring on 29 of its 68 possessions.

But whether it was a penalty, a turnover or a sack, Kentucky found plenty of ways to keep itself off the scoreboard last night. The Cats invaded South Carolina's half of the field on 10 of its 12 possessions overall, yet its only points after intermission came when the Gamecocks were called for holding in the end zone as punter Tyeler Dean was trying for an intentional safety with 33 seconds remaining.

UK Coach Guy Morriss was perplexed afterward.

"We struggled in the first half, and we struggled even more in the second half," Morriss said. "We just couldn't find a rhythm. We'd get a penalty, or somebody would line up wrong, or run the wrong route, or make the wrong read. We just shot ourselves in the foot all night long."

The loss hurts the Cats, now 4-2 overall and 0-2 in the SEC. Their chance to crack the Top 25 is gone, and next up is a game at Arkansas, one of the toughest road trips in the SEC.

"It's tough," receiver Tommy Cook said. "But a loss is a loss. We've just got to circle the wagons and get back to work tomorrow."

The Cats got off to a promising start as up-man Justin Haydock took the opening kick and returned it to the South Carolina 48-yard line.

After a 6-yard gain by Artose Pinner, UK tried some trickery. Cook took a pass from Lorenzen and tried to hit Derek Abney downfield, but Dunta Robinson intercepted at the South Carolina 10.

UK took a 7-0 lead on Lorenzen's 11-yard TD pass to Cook with 3:14 left in the second quarter, and Taylor Begley tacked on a 40-yard field goal 13 seconds before intermission to give the Cats their 10-point lead.

But UK had numerous blunders on the rest of its first-half possessions that kept the lead from being larger. Among them:

* A botched fake punt on fourth-and-21 from the South Carolina 49-yard line on its second series. Punter Glenn Pakulak took the snap and threw to Cook on the left sideline. Not only was Cook well short of the first down, he coughed up the ball, and South Carolina recovered at its 36.

* A Mike Kamphake fumble on the South Carolina 11-yard line midway through the second period.

* Two sacks of Lorenzen that stalled a drive that had the Cats first-and-10 on the South Carolina 31.

The Cats, the most penalized team in the SEC coming into the game, were flagged seven times for 55 yards last night. Two long runs by Pinner were wiped out by penalties.

"Those are drive killers," Morriss said of the flags. "They never come at a good time. They're tough for any team to overcome, I don't care how good you are. That's something we are going to get corrected."

Still breathing to start the second half, South Carolina came out and got on the board on its opening series when Daniel Weaver kicked a 38-yard field goal with 9:44 left in the third.

The Gamecocks then tied the score on one of the stranger plays in recent memory.

On second-and-8 from the UK 10-yard line, South Carolina quarterback Corey Jenkins broke away from David Johnson and pushed his way toward the goal line. But as he was being wrapped up at around the 2-yard line, cornerback Antoine Huffman knocked the ball out of Jenkins' hands into the end zone.

UK cornerback Derrick Tatum appeared to have the angle on the ball, but it slipped between his legs and into the mitts of Watts Sanderson, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound tackle, to tie the ball game at 10 with 13:07 left.

That play appeared to take the life out of the Cats, who went three-and-out on their next possession. South Carolina took over on its own 35 and needed just eight plays to get the go-ahead score. Ryan Brewer ran it in from 6 yards out with 7:54 remaining.

UK got a couple of more cracks at it but couldn't muster a game-winning score. The Cats drove to the South Carolina 6 with 1:28 left, but Aaron Boone fell down in the back of the end zone as he attempted to catch Lorenzen's lob pass on fourth down.

The Cats got the ball back following the safety with 26 seconds left, but Lorenzen's Hail Mary to Cook from the South Carolina 34 fell incomplete on the last play of the game.

"We let this one slip away," Abney said. "We had a chance to bury them in the first half, but just didn't stick it to them like we should have."

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