Saturday, October 09, 1999

UK faces winless Gamecocks

But Mumme not getting overconfident

The Associated Press

        COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Kentucky Wildcats (3-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) are coming off one of their biggest victories during coach Hal Mumme's three years, a 31-20 win over the then-20th-ranked Razorbacks.

        And today they face South Carolina (0-5, 0-3), which hasn't won in more than a year. The Gamecocks' losing streak, the longest in Division I, stands at 15.

  • Kickoff: 1p.m. today at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250), Columbia, S.C.
  • Records: UK 3-2 (1-1 SEC),
  South Carolina 0-5 (0-3).
  • TV: Insight Ch.6 (tape delay, 11:30p.m.).
  • Radio: WSAI-AM (1530), WNKR-FM (106.5).
  • Series: UK leads 5-4-1 (last: 1998, UK 33-28).
  • Line: UK by 8. What to watch: South Carolina's 15-game losing streak is the longest in Division I-A. This is a must-win for UK to harbor bowl hopes. UK owns the second-best passing offense in the Southeastern Conference, but the Gamecocks have the league's No.1 pass defense. UK may not need to score much, though; South Carolina's offense has been ineffective.
        South Carolina coach Lou Holtz, brought in this past December to revive the program, has never gone this deep into a season without a victory.

        But Mumme isn't overconfident.

        “We've got some things to straighten out, things to correct,” he said. “I think the main thing is we played well as a team.”

        Leading the way for Kentucky's “Air Raid” offense is quarterback Dusty Bonner, who has proven himself capable of replacing Tim Couch, an All-American last year and the NFL's top draft pick. Bonner is tied for first in the country with 16 touchdown passes and is third nationally with 1,595 passing yards.

        “I'm having a blast,” said Bonner, who has thrown only four interceptions and completed almost 70 percent of his passes. “I love it.”

        With Bonner in control, the Wildcats have a chance for their second straight bowl game. A victory today would mean they could go 2-3 down the stretch and qualify for the postseason.

        The Gamecocks could be officially eliminated from bowl contention this weekend. But mentally and physically, they were out of it long ago.

        Week after week, Holtz says, key players come up injured, and players who have not had much practice or game time are put in.

        They so far have not shown the toughness to make it in one of the country's most difficult leagues. “Until we get more physical, we can't be competitive in the SEC,” Holtz said.

        Mumme said he would not talk to his team much about South Carolina's struggles. But he would note the Gamecocks' improved defense and that their offensive pendulum eventually will have to swing the other way.


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