October 6, 2011

Defense is key to stopping South Carolina

Senior cornerback Anthony Mosley smiles when asked about his game-clinching interception against South Carolina in 2010.

He still remembers it like it was yesterday.

"I was playing nickel (coverage) and I just tried to run back as fast as I could to help Cartier Rice," Mosley said. "He made a great play on the ball and I was just able to get it for him."

The rest is history. Mosley's interception came as the clock winded down, and the UK fans rushed the field as the Wildcats earned their first Southeastern Conference win of the season while breaking a 10-game losing streak to the Gamecocks.

But UK doesn't believe any of that will help them in Columbia on Saturday.

"Different team, you use some of it with some of the guys still here but it's definitely a different team and they have a different team," UK head coach Joker Phillips said. "We are playing them at their place and they'll be a little more confident coming into this game. We expect to get their best game this week."

The memory of the 2010 win is never far off, though.

"I think about it every once in a while, if I'm feeling a little down sometimes it will put a smile on my face," Mosley said. "But for right now we need to look at this South Carolina play."

It wasn't just Mosley's interception that helped UK earn the win. In 2010, the defense bounced back in the second half, giving the Kentucky offense the chance to make up an 18-point halftime deficit.

Although the Cats allowed South Carolina to score touchdowns on four of its first five possessions, UK held the future SEC East champs scoreless for the final 32 minutes of the game while forcing four turnovers.

The Cats' defense this season might be clicking at the right time to have a repeat performance against the Gamecocks. In a blowout loss last week to Louisiana State, UK held the No.1 team in the country to 348 total yards of offense, the Tigers' second lowest total of the season.

"I believe the defense is starting to click," senior linebacker Danny Trevathan said. "We have a lot of older guys than the offense, we've been playing together for a long time and our guys have that relationship. We know how to work together, we hang out with each other a lot and we are clicking together. I think we can be one of the best defenses in the country still."

The Gamecocks' offense has struggled lately, averaging fewer than 20 points per game in its last three outings. But co-defensive coordinator Steve Brown stresses each team is different from last season. He also points out UK only had to face South Carolina's star running back [db]Marcus Lattimore for one half after he suffered an injury in the second quarter.

"(To stop Lattimore) you have to get a lot of guys to the ball and tackle him, hit him and try to strip the ball out," Brown said. "He's a very, very fine back and he's done some good things in his short time in college football but we have to make sure we have 11 hats hit him."

Also South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier announced that sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw will get the start Saturday over senior Stephen Garcia. Even last year, though, the UK defense prepared to face Shaw.

"Very gifted quarterback who can run the ball well, very athletic, throws the ball well," Brown said. "Probably was put in that position because Spurrier has confidence in his decision making."

Like last seasons meeting with South Carolina, UK is in the midst of a three-game losing streak, but Brown doesn't think the team isn't ready to hit the panic button.

"It's work as usual, no one is pressing hard or whining or complaining, it's all positive," Brown said. "It's all guys trying to get better and right the ship and get a victory down in Gamecock land."

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