COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Matt Ruffolo made three field goals to help Kentucky beat South Carolina 16-10 on Saturday night.
Despite its three turnovers, Kentucky (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) beat South Carolina (2-2, 1-1) for the seventh time in eight years, and set up a collision course toward next week’s matchup at home against No. 11 Florida.
“We just have to worry about ourselves. We got to prove to each other and the team that we can go out there and compete with anybody who steps on the field,” said Kentucky linebacker DeAndre Square, who led the Wildcats with eight tackles. “It’s not about anybody else, it’s about us.”
Chris Rodriguez Jr. ran for 144 yards on 26 carries for the Wildcats. Will Levis was 15-of-22 passing for 102 yards and threw an interception.
Kavosiey Smoke scored on 15-yard touchdown run on the first series of the game, capping a 12-play, 75-yard drive for Kentucky. Ruffolo’s 41-yard field goal to end the second quarter gave the Wildcats a 10-0 lead.
Luke Doty threw a threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Brooks early in the third quarter for South Carolina. Ruffalo made field goals from 21 and 27 yards before Parker White’s 54-yard field goal capped the scoring with 2:31 remaining.
Doty was 17-of-25 passing for 158 yards. Kevin Harris was held to just 38 yards rushing on 12 carries.
South Carolina recovered fumbles on back-to-back Kentucky possessions but couldn’t get any points despite going for it twice on fourth down. Each time, a dropped pass ended the drive.
“If you just look at some things, our turning the ball over, there’s no excuse for it. The ball bouncing to the other team sometimes, there’s no controlling that,” Kentucky coach Bob Stoops said. “When I first got here, we couldn’t play a lick of defense, but we led the country in fumbles. With some of those fumbles (this year), we just can’t do it.”
The Gamecocks’ defense has recovered multiple takeaways in every game but the offense hasn’t been able to take advantage. After scoring 46 points over hapless Eastern Illinois in its opener, South Carolina has a mere 43 points since.
“I don’t know. There’s a lot. We ran the ball 26 times for 58 yards. Not good enough,” South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said. “Each week’s different, and right now, it ain’t good enough.”
Kentucky had three field goals on the night, the final one with 4:26 left in the game that gave the Wildcats a 16-7 lead. Carolina answered with a field goal of its own, a career-high 54-yard field goal from Parker White, but the Wildcats were able to salt the clock and earn the six-point win.
144 – Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez had 26 carries for 144 yards on the night as the Wildcat offense accounted for 230 rushing yards in the win. Rodriguez averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
Carolina hosts Troy in a non-conference matchup at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 2. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on SEC Network.