football Edit

Game Grades: UK-South Carolina report card by position

Cats Illustrated hands out grades in this week's report card following UK's 17-10 win over South Carolina.

UK Athletics
Report card by position
Position Grade Explanation



Stephen Johnson finished the game 11-19 with 135 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He rushed for just six yards on 13 registered carries, although he was sacked four times, cutting into his total on the ground. But go beyond the numbers and Johnson was a poised field general who led the offense, managed the game, didn't give it away and did exactly what Kentucky needed to do in order to win a defensive battle. He made enough plays to keep the offense moving. His lone interception wasn't crippling, as it put South Carolina on their 30-yard line. And he didn't get down on himself when things weren't going well.



The running backs get top marks for the second consecutive week. Stanley Williams carried the ball 15 times -- which is probably right around his max -- for 123 yards and a touchdown. He was the best offensive player in the game and his 43 yard touchdown run in the third quarter put Kentucky ahead. Jojo Kemp initially got the backup's carries but Benny Snell saw the field and made the most of his chances again (16 carries, 73 yards, TD). Kentucky's "Thunder and Lightning" combination is giving the offense an identity it hasn't had in quite some time.



Since the USM game the wide receivers haven't been too involved in the passing game, but Johnson did distribute the ball well to the guys on the outside tonight even with Dorian Baker out. The only big play for a wide out was a 28 yard reception by Jeff Badet but Garrett Johnson had four grabs, Ryan Timmons chipped in with two, Tavin Richardson had a 19-yard catch and C.J. Conrad caught a pass after last week's breakout performance.



It wasn't always pretty but the big uglies did a good job. They do a better job run blocking than in pass sets but it's important to remember that Cole Mosier, the starting left tackle, was out. True freshman Landon Young had good moments and some learning moments as well, but he held up. Jon Toth didn't have his best game as a Cat and Ramsey Meyers was beat on a play in the first half that led to a sack. Johnson was sacked four times but overall the line played well enough to help the offense move the chains and win.



This grade is in part based on lowered expectations from poor play earlier in the season, but the defensive line deserves recognition for their play. They played contain effectively against a somewhat mobile quarterback with Brandon McIlwain finishing with 13 yards on 11 carries (four sacks factored in). Naquez Pringle and Alvonte Bell shared a sack and the line helped to hold South Carolina to 91 rushing yards on 35 carries. It was by far their best game of the year.



There were still too many missed tackles and Courtney Love and there's still plenty of room to get better but this unit improved markedly as well. Denzil Ware played like a man possessed and had one of his best games as a Wildcat. He had two sacks and Josh Allen notched a sack himself.



The secondary has to improve getting off blocks and making tackles. They still need to clean up some things in coverage. But it was a step forward for the defensive backfield as well, even though they didn't intercept any passes for the first time this year. McIlwain finished just 15-30 (50%) with 177 yards and it was South Carolina's lowest passing output of the season.



Grant McKinniss averaged 40 yards per punt and boomed one of more than 50 yards. He would have been credited with a coffin corner, pinning South Carolina deep, but the outcome was even better -- a running into the punter call that extended Kentucky's drive. The Cats' coverage units bottled up the Gamecock return men, on punts and kickoffs, and they played sound football. Austin MacGinnis was perfect on kicks.



Although the defense still has room to clean things up and the offense didn't generate huge numbers, the coaches deserve credit. They've come under a lot of criticism and there have been plenty of distractions, but for the second consecutive week UK has come out of the locker room strong and won the second half. They dialed up an aggressive defensive game plan and the initial returns following Stoops' increased involvement with the defense were positive. Eddie Gran called a great play on a designed run with Johnson deep in South Carolina territory on a tough third down conversion.