Chris Rodriguez Jr. ran for 144 yards to help the Kentucky Wildcats grind past the South Carolina Gamecocks 16-10 in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday night.
Rodriguez powered his way for 43 yards on five straight carries on a critical fourth-quarter drive, culminating in a Matt Ruffolo 27-yard field goal with 4:26 left to effectively put the game out of reach, 16-7.
After South Carolina (2-2, 0-2 SEC) responded with a Parker White 54-yard field goal on the ensuing drive to pull within 16-10, the Wildcats turned to the ground game and again had success.
Kavosiey Smoke burst through for 10 yards on second-and-1 to help the Wildcats burn more clock, and then Rodriguez grabbed another first down with 4 yards on third-and-2 to wrap things up.
Kentucky (4-0, 2-0) put up 230 yards on the ground compared to just 58 for South Carolina.
A 12-play, 75-yard drive to open the game staked the Wildcats to an early 7-0 lead. Smoke, who finished with 50 yards on 9 carries, scored on the ground from 15 yards out.
Quarterback Will Levis, who went 15-for-22 for 102 yards in the game, completed 3 of 4 passes on the drive and rushed for a key first down on third-and-1.
The Wildcats added a field goal at the end of the half to take a 10-0 lead into the break. Ruffolo was good from 43 yards out to cash in on a 10-play, 57-yard drive.
South Carolina's first four drives culminated in 43 yards of offense.
The Gamecocks got things going on the opening drive of the second half, going 75 yards in 10 plays to cut the lead to 10-7. Luke Doty completed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Brooks, going 5 of 6 on the drive.
Kentucky responded, driving down to the South Carolina 5, but the drive bogged down and the Wildcats had to settle for a 21-yard Ruffolo field goal.
A fumble by Kentucky set up the next South Carolina scoring chance. But facing fourth-and-5 at the Kentucky 25 down 13-7, they turned down a field goal attempt and Doty couldn't connect with Brooks at the first down marker.
The Gamecocks got second life a drive later when Josh Ali fumbled at midfield, which R.J. Roderick recovered with 11:32 to play. But another Doty pass fell incomplete, this time on fourth-and-3 from the Kentucky 40.
South Carolina finished 0-for-3 on fourth down, and just 3-for-12 on third down.
--Field Level Media