UK Football

Mark Story: Three key questions about Kentucky's game at South Carolina

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles. The University of Kentucky hosted Louisiana-Lafayette , Saturday, Sept. 05, 2015 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. Photo by Jonathan Palmer
Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles. The University of Kentucky hosted Louisiana-Lafayette , Saturday, Sept. 05, 2015 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. Photo by Jonathan Palmer Herald-Leader

Facts and questions leading up to the University of Kentucky's football game at South Carolina on Saturday night:

GAME FACTS

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

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

Line: South Carolina by 8 1/2

Series: South Carolina leads 17-8-1

Last meeting: Kentucky won 45-38 on Oct. 4, 2014, at Commonwealth Stadium

TV: SEC (play-by-play Brent Musburger; analysis Jesse Palmer; sideline Maria Taylor)

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channels 80 and 102, Sirius Channels 80 and 102

KEY QUESTIONS

1. Can Patrick Towles find his stroke?

A year ago, Towles completed 20 of 29 passes against South Carolina in Kentucky's upset victory. However, after hitting 60.2 percent of his passes in his first eight games as Kentucky's starting quarterback, Towles has completed exactly 50 percent (78 of 156) in his last five. After the 6-foot-5, 242-pound redshirt junior completed only six of 16 passes in the second half of Kentucky's season-opening 40-33 win over Louisiana-Lafayette, the questions about whether he is capable of being an accurate enough passer to effectively run an Air Raid attack have rekindled.

2. What kind of quarterback play will South Carolina get?

In South Carolina's season-opening victory over North Carolina, new Gamecocks quarterback Connor Mitch was a pedestrian 9-for-22 passing for 122 yards (though he did suffer several drops). It was South Carolina's rushing attack (254 yards) and defense (three interceptions) that allowed the Gamecocks to escape with a 17-13 victory. Louisiana-Lafayette (247 yards rushing) showed that Kentucky's defense still looks vulnerable on the ground. As funny as it sounds to say about a Steve Spurrier-coached offense, Kentucky's best hope for victory is likely to stack the box and try to make the Gamecocks throw.

3. Revenge of the Wildcat?

A season ago, Kentucky owed much of its 45-38 victory over South Carolina to the Gamecocks' complete inability to stop the Wildcat formation. Operating almost exclusively out of the Wildcat, Kentucky running back Jojo Kemp sliced and diced Carolina for 131 yards rushing and three touchdowns. This year, however, it is South Carolina with its star wideout Pharoh Cooper which seems most committed to running the Wildcat. New UK offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson has said he does not use it. You know that Steve Spurrier and Co. would relish getting revenge for last year's loss by unleashing the Wildcat on the Wildcats.

THE MOOD

Is apprehensive. Kentucky's uneven performance in its season opener took some of the good feeling out of the opening of the renovated Commonwealth Stadium. A second straight UK upset of the Men of Spurrier is not impossible. Regardless of the outcome, however, UK fans should feel better about this season if they see improved play from Kentucky at quarterback and on defense.

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