COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson
remembers chuckling at the comments opposing coaches like Steve
Spurrier putting down the Wildcats' finish a year ago.
At the Southeastern Conference preseason football gathering in
July, the sharp-tongued Spurrier got in backhanded slap - probably
more at rival Clemson than the Wildcats - when he said, "We
thought we did something big beating Clemson, then Kentucky beat
The Tigers lost to the Wildcats 28-20 in the Music City Bowl
It was the Wildcats fifth win in their last six games and got
them to 8-5, their best mark in 22 years.
Woodson knows it'll take a few more victories for the
eighth-ranked Wildcats (5-0, 1-0 SEC) to sway the college football
world that they can compete with the game's best. They'll get that
chance Thursday night at No. 11 South Carolina (4-1, 2-1) in a
nationally televised contest.
Woodson understands where Spurrier's coming from - South
Carolina's ball coach is 14-0 all time against Kentucky. But he
says a win at Williams-Brice Stadium would go a long way to
changing the perception that Kentucky is the SEC's "doormat."
"We just have to continue to earn respect," Woodson said. "We
have to really do a great job of coming away with a lot more wins.
That way teams take you a lot more seriously and they accept you as
one of the better teams in the conference."
Woodson and the Wildcats have done a good job already.
They're off to their best start since 1984. Beating the
Gamecocks would mean Kentucky's first 6-0 mark since Bear Bryant's
SEC champions did it in 1950.
"With a couple of wins against some great teams, the sky's the
limit for us," receiver Keenan Burton said. "It shows we're not
the same Kentucky team."
Despite what he said in the summer, Spurrier has noticed the
Wildcats' improvement and feels a kinship with Kentucky coach Rich
"He and I really have a lot of in common," Spurrier said
earlier this week.
Brooks and Spurrier both left terrific college programs - Brooks
at Oregon, Spurrier at Florida - to flop in the NFL, then got the
chance to rebuild an SEC team that consistently finished behind
Florida, Georgia and Tennessee in the league's Eastern Division.
Plus, Brooks "likes to play golf in the offseason just like I
do," Spurrier said. "He's a good guy. I'm glad to see they're up
Spurrier and the Gamecocks hope to dent that challenge this
The game features Kentucky's standout quarterback going up
against the nation's top passing defense.
Woodson, whose play has spurred Heisman Trophy talk, had his
NCAA best mark of 325 pass attempts without an interception ended
last week against Florida Atlantic. But he still set a career-best
with five TD passes in Kentucky's 45-17 win.
He is second in the conference in passing yards (261.8 a game)
and leads with 16 touchdown throws and just the one interception.
"For me, honestly, I really don't care about winning the
Heisman at all," Woodson said. "I'm just very concerned about us
trying to win games. That means so much more to me."
The senior passer remembers the sorry seasons he went through
(Kentucky was 9-25 between 2003-05) before last year's success. To
continue that this year, "that means the world to all of us,"
Said Burton: "We can get our chance to say Spurrier 14,
Burton, Woodson and the rest of the Wildcats offense will get a
test against a Gamecock defense that is yielding just over 106
yards passing a game.
Spurrier knows, though, it'll be difficult to keep Kentucky out
of the end zone. The Wildcats lead the conference in scoring at
more than 46 points a game.
So Spurrier figures he'll need his offense to show a spark
similar to last week when freshman Chris Smelley threw for 279
yards and two touchdowns in a 38-21 win over Mississippi State.
"We can't go out there and poop around like we did" earlier
this season and expect success, Spurrier said. "We've got to stay
on the field, make some first downs and make some third downs like
we've been doing to give ourselves a chance."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)