UK Football

Mark Story: 'Wild-Kemp' formation rocks the night for Kentucky

Strength coach Rafael Horton carried Kentucky Wildcats running back Jojo Kemp (3) off the field after he scored his third touchdown as the University of Kentucky played the University of South Carolina at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, October 04, 2014. This is fourth quarter college football action. UK won 45-38. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff
Strength coach Rafael Horton carried Kentucky Wildcats running back Jojo Kemp (3) off the field after he scored his third touchdown as the University of Kentucky played the University of South Carolina at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, October 04, 2014. This is fourth quarter college football action. UK won 45-38. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff Herald-Leader

As the final minutes of the first signature victory of Mark Stoops' coaching tenure at Kentucky played out, fans filled Commonwealth Stadium with an unexpected chant.

"Jo-jo! Jo-jo!"

In a way few would have predicted when Kentucky brought the Air Raid offense back to Lexington, Jojo Kemp earned every bit of those chants.

With Kemp slicing and dicing South Carolina (3-3, 2-3 SEC) from the Wildcat formation, Kentucky (4-1, 2-1 SEC) beat South Carolina and Steve Spurrier 45-38 Saturday night before 62,135 mostly delirious black-clad Cats fans.

The Head Ball Coach may still be 20-2 all-time against Kentucky, but he's now lost two of his last three in Lexington.

UK fell behind 14-0, went ahead 24-17, got behind 38-24, then charged back again to win.

"It felt uphill all the way. Uphill and frustrating," Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops said. "That's why I'm so proud of our guys."

The game-winning touchdown came from Kentucky star defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree. After UK defensive tackle Mike Douglas tipped a Dylan Thompson pass, Dupree — who was recruited to Kentucky as a tight end — plucked it from the air and rumbled 6 yards to put the Cats ahead 45-38 with 2:29 left.

With South Carolina desperately trying to drive for a tying score, UK senior safety Ashely Lowery's interception instead gave Kentucky and Kemp a chance to run out the clock.

A game that Kentucky marketed as a "Blackout" became a "Kemp out."

The 5-foot-10, 192-pound sophomore from Deland, Fla., finished with 131 yards on 17 carries.

"So proud of Jojo," Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops said. "Other than some special guests we've had, I think that was the first game ball I've given out. I'm so proud of him, how he ground this one out."

It was a tour de force performance for a back who, in UK's 17-7 win over Vanderbilt last week, appeared to have seen his role in the Kentucky offense diminished in favor of true freshman Stanley "Boom" Williams.

On the final drive of UK's victory over Vandy, however, Kemp ran out the clock running the ball from the Wildcat formation.

It was prologue to what happened in Commonwealth against South Carolina.

Kentucky scored five offensive touchdowns vs. the struggling Gamecocks defense. All five came from the Wildcat formation.

Or, if you will, the "Wild-Kemp" formation.

Kemp scored three touchdowns from the Wildcat, on runs of 3, 1 and 5 yards. Braylon Heard scored a fourth TD on a run from the Wildcat, exploding through the middle of a befuddled South Carolina defense for a 38-yard touchdown.

The other UK offensive TD out of the Wildcat was the most memorable of all. On the first Kentucky possession of the second half, UK quarterback Patrick Towles went in motion. Kemp took the snap and handed it to Javess Blue sweeping left.

Rather than run, however, Blue handed it to the split-out Towles on a reverse. Towles then threw it to a shockingly lonely Ryan Timmons 20 yards behind the South Carolina secondary for a 48-yard touchdown.

For Kentucky fans, used to seeing Spurrier dial up trick-a-ration to make UK look befuddled, it was a sweet moment.

Across the decades, Kentucky fans will always remember the unlikely nature of this one.

Stoops brought UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown to Lexington to reinstall a version of Hal Mumme's old Air Raid offense.

The biggest win the duo have so far achieved came from relying on the Wildcat.

Towles, who must have envisioned games throwing 50 passes when he won the Kentucky starting QB job, spent most of the fourth quarter going in motion to line up at wide receiver.

Amazingly, Kentucky rallied from 14 down in the fourth quarter to beat Spurrier by running the football.

Who could have imagined all that?

"It was one of the most special atmospheres I've been a part of," Stoops said, "just because we've had to dig ourselves out of such a hole.

Just think. If Kentucky had pulled out that three-overtime game at Florida the Cats would be in the Catbird's seat in the SEC East. They didn't, but Kemp says an SEC East title is still the goal for Kentucky in 2014.

"We're trying to shoot for the top, the SEC championship," said the man who made The Wildcat purr. "That's what we want. Why not us?"

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