By LARRY VAUGHT
Twice this season South Carolina has given up more yards than it allowed — but the Gamecocks still beat North Carolina State 35-28 and then won 31-13 at Missouri.
That’s why South Carolina has emerged as at least a 7-point favorite over Kentucky going into Saturday night’s game in Columbia.
One big reason South Carolina has won twice is Deebo Samuel had a 97-yard kickoff return after Missouri had taken a 10-0 lead. Missouri quarterback Drew Lock threw an interception on Mizzou’s first play from scrimmage following the Samuel touchdown and Samuel promptly scored on a 25-yard run on the Gamecocks’ first play after the interception.
He also had a 97-yard kickoff return for a score against North Carolina State.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Monday that Samuel is an electric playmaker.
“He’s got great vision. Like any greater returner, you’ve got to have top-end speed. He obviously has top-end speed, and can make people miss but it also has vision. That’s where you know you have a very good football player,” Stoops said.
“He does a lot of things. They want the ball in his hands. He’s got quite a few touches. He’ll get things on reverses, and little fly sweeps. Kick returns. In many different ways. Obviously they’ll isolate him and try to get you one-on-one with him in the pass game.”
Kentucky’s kickoff coverage against Eastern Kentucky was not stellar Saturday. Twice kicker Austin MacGinnis had to make tackles and at least one appeared to have saved a touchdown.
“We were poor today,” Kentucky special teams coach Dean Hood said after Saturday’s game. “We covered kickoffs very poorly and I have got to watch film and figure out what it was. They just executed better than we covered. But that has to change at South Carolina.”