UK Football

Blue Preview: UK tries to win its third straight over South Carolina

Kentucky backup quarterback Stephen Johnson II relieved an injured Drew Barker and threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in UK’s 62-42 win over New Mexico State.
Kentucky backup quarterback Stephen Johnson II relieved an injured Drew Barker and threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in UK’s 62-42 win over New Mexico State. cbertram@herald-leader.com

South Carolina at Kentucky

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Commonwealth Stadium

TV: SEC Network (play-by-play Brent Musburger; analyst Jesse Palmer; sideline Kaylee Hartung)

Radio: WLAP AM-630, WBUL FM-98.1, XM Channel 190, Sirius Channel 106

Records: South Carolina 2-1 (1-1 SEC); Kentucky 1-2 (0-1)

Series: South Carolina leads 17-9-1, but Kentucky has won two straight

Last meeting: Kentucky won 26-22 on Sept. 12, 2015, in Columbia, S.C.

Line: Kentucky is favored by two points

The story line

Kentucky seeks to maintain the viability of its season — and take some heat off of the embattled Mark Stoops — by beating South Carolina for a third consecutive season.

On the spot

Stoops. Against New Mexico State last week, Stoops, the former Florida State defensive coordinator, said he would be more involved in Kentucky’s defensive game plan. Yet the UK “D” was brutal. Kentucky allowed the Sun Belt Conference team 35 first-half points and 500 total yards for the game. Against South Carolina, the lowest-scoring offense (15.7 points a game) in the SEC, the pressure is on Stoops and the UK defense to produce a better showing.

The big threat

In a close game, South Carolina place-kicker Elliott Fry could be the difference. Fry beat Vanderbilt with a 55-yard field goal and is 4-for-5 on the season with his only miss from 55 yards.

The mood

Has been gnarly. Kentucky’s second-half meltdown against Southern Mississippi and total no-show at Florida — coupled with Louisville’s boffo early-season success — has unleashed the furies in the UK fan base. Beating South Carolina may not silence the baying hounds, but it would buy Stoops and Kentucky a viable chance to salvage the season.

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