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October 6, 2013
Kentucky players knew how close they came to upsetting the country's No. 12 team in front of a hostile crowd on the road Saturday night, and they will look to build on that positive momentum moving forward.
The Wildcats lost 35-28, but several Kentucky players took solace after the game in their ability to band together and give the Gamecocks a run for their money. The Wildcats were down 27-7 through three quarters, but outscored South Carolina 21-8 in the final period.
"I think this game gave us a lot of confidence," said freshman wide receiver Ryan Timmons. "This is a great crowd and a great defense. This is a great team we played, and I think this is going to help us build to get ready for another great team next week."
Timmons, who finished with four catches for 36 yards and a touchdown reception, and several of his teammates were happy with the team's response after going down 21-0 early in the game. Senior linebacker Avery Williamson, who had nine tackles, said key to the comeback was the team's refusal to get discouraged.
"We just told ourselves we can't get down, and we've got to go in there and fix what we messed up on, and we came out and we played with those guys," Williamson said. "You know it's just simple things, a little bit of confusion in the first half and we just had to come out and put some things on the board and fix it. But we didn't get down in the first half. We didn't get down, and we knew we were going to come out and play those guys better in the second half."
Sophomore quarterback Jalen Whitlow, who engineered the comeback with 263 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, attributed Kentucky's near-upset to a "special energy" the team felt. Whitlow said the players never stopped encouraging each other on the sideline, and the offense began feeling like it would score every time it touched the ball.
"It was the first big away game," Whitlow said. "We didn't start like we wanted to, but we just focused in and picked it up. We never got discouraged. We just stayed in it, and next time we have to make a couple more plays."
Nearly every player agreed that the Wildcats needed to make just one or two more plays to complete the comeback.
"I think we played well," Timmons said. "We fought back and we came close to winning at the end. If we could have made a few more stops, a few more drives, we could have ended up winning that game. We've got to take from this and move on."
Williamson said he could also take some positives from the win, but it hurt knowing how close they came.
"You know it still hurts to lose a game, we had it and I just felt like we missed some key opportunities," Williamson said.
Freshman running back Jojo Kemp said Kentucky left too many potentially game-changing opportunities on the field. Kemp also said the slow start and a multitude of minor miscues crippled the team's chances.
"We just have to come out with our head on fire and just keep rolling, so we can start strong and we don't have to keep rushing to get things done," said Kemp, who took 12 carries for 40 yards. "We need to come out fast, eliminate little mistakes and once the little mistakes go, big things will happen."
Whitlow, who played a full game for the first time this season as Kentucky abandoned its two-quarterback system, was happy with the team's defiant attitude in a hostile environment. Kentucky covered the spread by two touchdowns, and Whitlow says the team isn't far from coming out with a win next time.
"Even though it's a loss, you have to take positives (away from the game)," Whitlow said. "You know, we were close - just a couple more plays. 90,000 people, top-ranked team - we gave them all they wanted. We just got a couple more plays here and there, a couple more better decisions. We are getting close, getting better."
Timmons said Kentucky should be able to carry these positives from Saturday night's game home with them to Lexington, Ky., where they can put them to use against No. 1 Alabama next Saturday.
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