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South Carolina poised for SEC matchup vs No. 17 Kentucky

(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

By PETE IACOBELLI

AP Sports Writer

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina center Donnell Stanley is eager to correct the mistakes the Gamecocks have made in big games this season.

This week would be a good time for the Gamecocks when they square off against No. 17 Kentucky.

The Gamecocks (2-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) were bludgeoned by No. 2 Georgia 41-17 three weeks ago, a projected showdown that quickly turned into a rout.

Stanley knows the same thing can't happen against the Wildcats (4-0, 2-0) or South Carolina will be left clawing just to reach the middle of the SEC Eastern Division - not were the Gamecocks expected to be coming off last year's 9-4 season.

"We've just got to stay composed, just do what we do," Stanley said Tuesday. "Stay violent, composed, that's what coach talks about all the time."

It won't be easy.

Besides Kentucky being ranked for the first time in 11 years and at 2-0 in the SEC for the first time since 1977, the Gamecocks have lost their past four games to the Wildcats.

The losses have all followed a familiar pattern for the Gamecocks: Defensive breakdowns and failure to capitalize on offense.

Last season's 23-13 loss in week three was particularly glaring as South Carolina not only lost the game, but lost playmaking receiver Deebo Samuel with a broken leg and linebacker-defensive end Bryson Allen-Williams with a shoulder injury.

Neither played again that season.

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said neither of his now healthy seniors has made much of missing out on last year's game and gaining revenge in this one.

"I'm very pleased with their approach," the coach said.

Allen-Williams said he won't be thinking about last year's defeat and the Gamecocks should not put any weight on Kentucky's series win streak.

"It's not about that," Allen-Williams said. "This is about two teams playing each other this year."

Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley said Samuel, also healthy, has not spent time dwelling on what happened to him in last year's Kentucky game.

"Obviously, his big thing is getting through the season" without injury, Bentley said Samuel. "Since, he's come back, he's had a different mindset where he does not take football for granted."

South Carolina had a mission to complete last week in outlasting Vanderbilt 37-14. The team had not played in two weeks - its Sept. 15 home contest with Marshall was canceled due to Hurricane Florence - since its Georgia defeat and was anxious to return to the winning track.

Bentley, who helped South Carolina put up 534 yards in the win, said the team has been upbeat, positive and excited about what it could accomplish since Saturday's win.

"We're anxious to get the rest of the season going," Bentley said.

Kentucky is so far enjoying a breakthrough SEC season. It's already snapped a three-decade long losing streak to Florida and then held off No. 14 Mississippi State 28-7 last week.

Wildcats coach Mark Stoops believes his team has learned what it takes to pull out difficult, physical SEC games.

"You better be able to man up and you better be physical and you better be able to play four quarters," Stoops said. "And guess what? We have another opportunity to prove it" against South Carolina.

South Carolina will not have injured receiver OrTre Smith who will need surgery next week to correct a kneecap subluxation injury - a painful genetic condition where the kneecap dislocates from its normal position.

Smith, who has three catches this year, will miss the season.

Muschamp does not want his players caught up in things those outside the program typically do. He has not mentioned his team's four-game losing streak to Kentucky or much about its success at Vanderbilt.

"We've got to have to have the same approach every week," Muschamp said. "It's how we're always going to do things."

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Updated September 25, 2018

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