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October 8, 2011COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Joker Phillips wrinkled his brow. He touched his hand to his head. Kentucky's head coach stared into space, as if it was a window sitting a few yards in front of him and not a concrete wall. It was the look of a man who had seen too much. It was the look of a man searching for answers.
"Ugly is how you can describe it," Phillips said.
Morgan Newton folded his arms and spoke softly.
"Embarrassed is probably the best way to put it," Newton said. "I don't know if I've ever gotten beaten this bad."
South Carolina (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) pulverized UK (2-4, 0-3 SEC) 54-3, the Wildcats' worst loss since 2008 and their worst loss ever to the Gamecocks in 23 meetings. Kentucky's offense managed just 96 yards of offense, turning the ball over six times in 16 possessions. The offense stumbled its way to six three-and-outs, and their only points came after a fumble on the opening kickoff put the Wildcats in scoring position to start the drive.
The offense was nonexistent after that. Newton turned the ball over on an interception and a turnover. He started the day 3-6 but finished 4-21, being yanked in favor of Maxwell Smith again in the third quarter. But Smith was even worse, throwing interceptions on his first two plays before Newton returned to the game.
That wasn't the only trouble on offense. The Wildcats ran 27 times for 79 yards, and UK's tailbacks had only 24 rushing yards.
"Today, there wasn't too much that did work," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said.
The Wildcats averaged 1.8 yards per play on offense, and had more as many turnovers (six) as first downs.
"We have to find ourselves on offense,""Newton said.
The UK defense wasn't much better. Gamecock quarterback Connor Shaw, making his second career start, completed 26-39 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns while adding 42 rushing yards. South Carolina ran a whopping 91 plays and piled up 639 yards on offense.
Shaw and sophomore tailback Marcus Lattimore, who rushed for 102 yards, each had more yards individually than the entire Kentucky offense. Junior receiver Alshon Jeffery, who caught two touchdown passes, had 95 yards, one yard shy of UK's total.
"At this juncture, players and coaches have to do soul-searching because we have to find answers," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said. "I have to look myself in the mirror and see what we're doing, what we're asking our players to do."
Even when the game was decided and Spurrier inserted his backups, the Wildcats couldn't stop the bleeding. South Carolina's backup quarterbacks combined to complete 5-5 passes for 40 yards, throwing one touchdown and running for another. South Carolina entered the fourth quarter up 33-3 but scored 21 points anyway.
Sanders said he was confused, embarrassed, disappointed and angry after the loss. The Wildcats have been outscored 137-20 in their three conference games. The UK offense has scored 10, 7 and 3 points in those successive contests. The UK offense has scored fewer points in each of their last five games than in the previous contest.
Phillips, half of the season behind him, kept staring ahead. There was still no window in front of him.
With a bye coming up before a return to Commonwealth Stadium and a game against Jacksonville State, he said it was time to restart.
"We have to figure out some of those answers," Phillips said. "We have to figure out our best personnel. We have to figure out our best schemes and rep them over and over and over again. It's much-needed, I'll tell you that right now. We need to find answers."
Senior wide receiver Matt Roark sprained a hamstring. Senior linebacker Danny Trevathan sprained his AC (shoulder).