It’s the only word that could describe Kentucky’s 45-38 win over South Carolina on Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Cats scored every touchdown out of the Wildcat formation, well, except the one that sealed it, an interception for a touchdown by Alvin “Bud” Dupree to give UK the lead for good with 2:29 to go.
Running almost exclusively out of the Wildcat formation, Jojo Kemp had 17 carries for 131 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter that helped the Cats come back from as many as 14 points down with 11:45 to go.
“Called Jojo up and gave him a game ball,” Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops said. “Just sheer determination that he had. He put the team on his back.”
The win snapped a three-game losing streak to South Carolina and helped UK (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) get just its second win over Steve Spurrier in program history.
“It means a lot,” Kemp said of the victory. “We just wanted to come out, show the nation, show our fans what UK has been working so hard for. Just show that we’re really changing the game.”
All of the wildness caused the season-record crowd of 62,135 to rush the field after the victory.
“It was awesome,” quarterback Patrick Towles said of the fans. “We win for them. They’re as much a part of this team as I am. It was great to see my family after the game. So it was awesome.”
All three of Kemp’s scores, from 3, 1 and 5 yards, came out of the Wildcat formation with Towles wide left. Braylon Heard also scored out of that formation, a 38-yard surge in the second quarter that helped electrify a quiet-at-the-time Commonwealth Stadium.
Towles completed 20 of 29 passes for 208 yards and a TD.
The magnitude of the win was not lost on the quarterback.
“It’s huge. It’s huge. It’s huge,” he said. “We were extremely close – we’re extremely close to being 5-0, which is unbelievable. We’re 4-1, which is unbelievable. But we’re going to move forward. We’re going to win a lot of games, because the tenacity and the passion that we showed tonight is going to win us a lot of football games moving forward.”
Kemp was also exuberant.
"I came here to change the program. And that's what we're doing," Kemp told the SEC Network in an on-field interview after the game. "Why not us? Why not Kentucky?"
Kentucky had been silenced by the Gamecocks (3-3, 2-3) running out to a 14-0 lead on two straight Mike Davis touchdowns. The running back finished with 23 carries for 183 yards and three scores.
South Carolina won the toss and decided it wanted to take a run at the Kentucky defense, which hadn’t given up a first-half touchdown this season.
The Gamecocks changed that with a 1-yard scoring run by Davis.
South Carolina took making a run at the UK defense quite literally, rushing all but twice in a 79-yard drive. Between Davis and Brandon Wilds, they ran for 70 yards.
That 19-play drive was just two plays short of the number the Cats allowed to Vanderbilt the entire first half a week before.
Davis did it again on the Gamecocks’ next drive, rushing 2 yards for the touchdown to give South Carolina 14-0 lead. It looked like Kentucky might catch a break to start that drive when the snap sailed high over the head of South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson.
It sailed 18 yards over his head and looked like it might have been plucked from his hands by Dupree, but replays said otherwise.
The miscue just made a longer scoring drive for South Carolina, which went 72 yards in 11 plays.
After taking that punch to the gut, Kentucky responded with a big defensive stop and marched 52 yards in six plays and got on the board with a 3-yard run by Kemp out of the Wildcat formation.
The Cats’ defense forced another three-and-out and UK got the ball back at its own 30-yard line, but another miscue was costly.
After having problems with ball security last week, Towles fumbled again, this time while being sacked by Larenz Bryant on a third-and-6 at the 45. Jonathan Walton picked up the loose ball to help set up a 31-yard field goal for Elliott Fry with 4:45 to go in the first half. South Carolina led 17-7.
It didn’t take long for the Cats to get back in it again, though. Not to be outdone by Kemp’s Wildcat plays, Heard took his own carry out of that formation 38 yards for a score on the third play of the drive.
A.J. Stamps made perhaps the play of the half for Kentucky, picking off Thompson at the Cats’ 30-yard line and taking it 50 yards. It was the safety’s third pick of the season, tying UK’s entire defense all of last season.
Stamps had six tackles at the break to go with his all-important pick. At the half, linebacker Josh Forrest had 11 tackles, one better than his career best. The junior finished with 15 tackles.
“He's a very good football player and very good instincts,” Stoops said. “So we're glad we have him.” Kentucky capitalized on that pick in the final seconds of the first half as Austin MacGinnis booted a 47-yard field goal to tie the game at 17.
After being outgained 143-26 in the first quarter, Kentucky nearly evened up the yardage with 182 yards in the second quarter while the defense held the Gamecocks to 79.
On their first drive out of the locker room, a Kentucky trick turned into quite the treat for the fans at Commonwealth Stadium
Lined up in the Wildcat formation that had been so successful in the first half, Kemp made a short pitch to Javess Blue, who tossed it back to Towles (who was lined up wide left), who then found a wide-open Ryan Timmons 48 yards down the field for the score.
The Gamecocks needed just shy of two minutes to reply, going 85 yards in five plays and tying it up 24-24 with a 25-yard run for Shon Carson that came on the heels of a costly holding penalty on the Cats’ secondary.
Sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper put the Gamecocks back up with a 12-yard catch from Thompson to cap a monster 12-play, 91-yard drive that ate up more than five minutes and was reminiscent of the South Carolina from the first quarter.
Davis did what Davis does and put the game seemingly out of reach with his third touchdown of the game, this time a 26-yarder that split two Kentucky defenders and gave the Gamecocks a 38-24 lead with 11:45 left.
Then it became the Jojo show.
He helped Kentucky score 21 unanswered points in the final eight minutes.
On two straight series, he carried the offense with the Wildcat package and scored on a 1-yard run with 8:06 to play to put the Cats within striking distance 38-31.
“Obviously we can’t stop it,” Coach Steve Spurrier said of the Wildcat formation. “Obviously we can’t stop that kid in the Wildcat.”