Everything Kentucky and South Carolina players said on Saturday night

Justin Rowland, Publisher
Cats Illustrated

Here's everything Kentucky and South Carolina players told the media after Saturday night's game in Columbia, S.C.




Opening Quote

Our thoughts and our prayers are with the fan that was injured last night. It was an exciting win, but I just wanted to acknowledge her. As far as the victory, it was a great team victory. The strength of our team is the team. I told you guys since day one that they had a winning mentality and a winning work ethic, and now you’re seeing that. Everyone wants to panic because you’ve got to look pretty all the time. Winning is what matters. We have an edge and an attitude about us, and we like it that way. I’m just proud of the team. You take a shot right on the chin, you start to gain, place is going wild, and we embraced it. We took the shot and went right back to work. That doesn’t even faze us. That’s what I love about this team. It doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of things we’ve got to get better at. It doesn’t mean we’re not efficient in certain areas. We’re going to have to continue to get better as the season goes on, but their work ethic is right, their attitude is right. They can take a punch, that’s for sure. I’m very proud of them.

On after the 68-yard South Carolina touchdown

That’s hard to say. It’s mayhem, organized mayhem. It’s about getting everyone on the same page. I thought our team was unbelievably smart and took shots when we had to take shots. We made critical third downs, and that’s important to win games.

On keeping South Carolina off the scoreboard

Our defense battled in there and kept us in the game -- sheer guts and determination. Our guys are just playing better up front. Guys are making better plays, and those were big stops. On people thinking Kentucky was the underdog Quite honestly, we were tired of it. What, like, we didn’t get better? Like we aren’t a better football team?

On thinking Kentucky is a more mature team

There’s no doubt, but you’ve seen that from this team. We play this competition every week, and we are going to keep our edge and our attitude. We’ve got to be hungry and humble. Just keep on staying focused on getting better and working. This team will do that.

On how the defense has changed

We’re better, and we’re passionate. They are getting some basic things fixed, and the football is very good. Teams still put you in tough matchups, just like that first play. I wish we could have that one back. Those are tough matchups.



On coming in as the underdog and how it played into the motivation for this game

“It played a big part. It seems like everybody has had us as the underdog so it just gives us extra motivation coming out here and playing big games, in big situations, big environments and wanting to do well.”

On converting on third down

“It’s just execution. We had a whole day of practice strictly for third downs and working on them. Coach Graham’s thing is if we are 50 percent we are the best in the nation. So we really strive for 50 percent, and on third-and-ones we try to make sure we get all of them.”

On the 54-yard run late in the game

“They went two man so that means no one accounted for me, so as soon as I saw everyone was in coverage I just ran right up the middle then went to the sideline and knew we had a little bit of time left so I made sure I didn’t go out of bounds and stop the clock.”


On coming in on fourth-and-one and making a big play

“I didn’t expect to get my number called but I was right beside coach and I was ready for my number to be called. I had the A-gap but I read the path of the back so I scraped tight and the D-Line charged pretty good, so I was able to run free and make the play. It was a very rewarding play, you work on it all week and you don’t really know when you are going to get in as a number two so just having your number called and making a play is pretty cool.”

On dealing with going down early after the first play

“We had the worst start we could probably have and we were only down six so we knew we were going to get better from where we started. Our motto is finish, so we knew we had three more quarters to go and we knew we had to get better.”



Opening Statement

I’m extremely disappointed with that performance. With as good of a night as our fans and our administration set up for us, to go out and play like that, I feel like it’s my responsibility. It’s extremely disappointing to play the first two ball games pretty clean, and we jump off sides four to five times, we have two short field goal; offensively we can’t get anything going, we had a hard time in short yardage, we were unable to convert a one-yard run on two separate occasions; defensively can’t get off the field on third down in the first half, we didn’t tackle very well for the night. We had an opportunity there at the end to get off the field, and we had a quarterback scramble for 54 yards. I’m extremely disappointed. I hate it for our fans, because they were certainly excited to be there. We had a wonderful environment that they created, and we certainly didn’t follow up. We had our opportunities early, and we didn’t convert. It’s disappointing. Give Kentucky credit for winning the game.

Injury updates

Deebo Samuel broke his leg, and he’s out for the season. I’m really disappointed for him. He’s a wonderful young man so I’m extremely disappointed for that. Zack Bailey’s got an ankle injury; I’m not sure how serious it is. Dante Sawyer has a hamstring; I’m not sure how serious that is.

On weaknesses in the run defense

I don’t know if it was gashing us, it was bleeding us out. Third down was the issue. If you asked me at halftime, I would’ve said it didn’t hurt. They had a couple runs here and there. [Benny] Snell [Jr.] is a big back. He gets positive yardage; that’s what he does. His longest rush of the game was 12 yards. I’m not saying that’s good; I’m just saying that I don’t know if the run game was killing us. They had a 54-yard scramble, which is in our pass stats. They had about 130 yards on about 45 carries. That’s right at about three yards per carry. That’s not a huge gash in the game. Third down killed us in the first half. We couldn’t get our defense off the field, and we couldn’t get our offense on the field.

On the South Carolina run game

They whipped us up front. I was extremely disappointed in that, and I didn’t feel like we were able to get it going in the second half. We tried to pick up the tempo offensively and start throwing the football. We were able to move the ball effectively, but we weren’t able to get a fourth and one on the line or kick a field goal. That was disappointing.

On missed kicks

That really surprised me. I was disappointed. We had a delay of game that shouldn’t have happened. That’s my fault. We’ve got to do a better job coaching. Parker White is absolutely our place kicker going forward.

On Deebo Samuel’s injury

He got hurt on the curl right on their sideline. I think that’s when he got rolled up. He came off the field and tried to go again. I don’t have much information, but I know he’s going to be out for the year.

On Jake Bentley’s play

He was up and down. When you’re unable to run the ball and you put all the pressure on throwing the football every down, it’s difficult. You have to try to manufacture more than you can. It’s difficult.

On wide receivers stepping up for Deebo Samuel

I think we’ve got some capable guys. Shi Smith is a freshman we’re trying to train up. OrTre made a great catch in the end zone. Brian Edwards has been a dependable guy. Our tight end group is somewhat of a wide out group. K.C. Crosby and those guys are able to stretch the field and attack the middle of the field. Next man up has to be our mentality.

On fighting to the end of the game

I think one thing our guys will do is fight and give great effort. I do know those things. They continued to figure out some things in the run game offensively. They continued to work on playing box better up front. We have improved tremendously from where we were, and we’ll continue to find some answers.


On not being able to stop Kentucky on third down

“You want to get off the field on third down so it’s definitely not a good feeling. They continued drives, so we just need to get off the field better.”

On Deebo’s [Samuel] injury affecting the defense

“We’ll just have to play better defense and hold them to less points. We’ll have to tackle better, and just play better as a whole on defense.”

On advising Deebo in his recovery

“I’m going to definitely talk to him, get in his ear, and keep his head right. He has a bright future, so this is just a little bump in the road for him, he’ll be fine.”

On not capitalizing on big opportunities

“We hope we can capitalize on turnovers. That’s what we preach every day- to get the ball back to our offense so we can score. The offense was having a rough night, but I’m confident in our offense and I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to bounce back and do a lot better in the next couple of weeks.”


On if Kentucky surprised the defense or if the defense couldn’t execute

“They weren’t doing anything that we didn’t prepare for. We practiced all the stuff that they did throughout the week.”

On the mental affect of knowing the significance of third downs

“We just play one play at a time. We can’t let the last play affect us so we just take it one play by one play.”


On the injury to Deebo Samuel

“He’s an outstanding teammate and outstanding friend so it will be difficult, but it’s next-guy-up mentality. He is going to be hard to replace but we have a lot of other guys to go to. He’ll still be part of everything we do and be a part of this team. (I’m) not sure what we will do schematically but it’s the next-guy-up and we’ll get ready to go.”

On OrTre Smith’s first career catch

“It was a great play and a great play call. He did an excellent job getting across the field and made a great catch. (It’s) a huge play for him. He’s been working hard in practice, so he’s definitely going to be one of the guys that’s going to have to step up now.”

On what’s next for the team

“We just have to go back, regroup and just go attack next week. That’s all you can do now. You can’t sit here and dwell on the negatives. We are going to go home and watch the film and get better from it. It’s a long season. This game is not going to determine outcomes later in the season, so we just have to keep pushing.”


On the run game

“(We) just (weren’t) efficient on our carries. We got some right plays called. For me on 3rd and 4th down, I had one yard to go and I just didn’t get it, so sometimes you have to be more efficient and do all we can to get more yards.”


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