The Daily Gamecock

South Carolina defense outmatched from beginning


Well, at least it’s not like South Carolina’s defensive performance against Auburn shocked anyone. 

With all of the positives that the Gamecock offense had Saturday, it’s difficult to come up with anything nice to say about the defensive players besides that they tried. 

“We definitely feel like we’re letting the offense down,” sophomore linebacker Skai Moore  said. “They put up a whole bunch of numbers, a lot of points. We definitely should have come out with a victory tonight, but just couldn’t get it done on defense.”  

Auburn's fast-paced rushing attack was as good as advertised, with 395 of their 551 total yards coming on the ground. Senior quarterback Nick Marshall did whatever he pleased. He had 10 carries for 89 yards and three touchdowns and also threw for another score.

Adding on to that, Tigers' senior running back Cameron Artis-Payne looked good with 167 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown. Even junior receiver Ricardo Louis  made noise in the ground game with a 102-yard night, highlighted by a 75-yard touchdown off a jet sweep in the third quarter where he went nearly untouched.

It’s hard to figure out why the Gamecock defense is performing so badly. Whether it’s the coaching or just the players aren’t good enough or experienced enough, fans desperately want things to change.

When Marshall ran free off the line of scrimmage without anyone within five yards of him, it made some wonder if any Gamecock player was assigned responsibility for the quarterback. On Louis’ long touchdown run from the jet sweep, another wrinkle Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn likes to use, South Carolina’s defense looked like it had never seen that play before.

Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said a major plan was to try to keep the ball out of Marshall’s hands, and that did not go smoothly, as his four total touchdowns indicated.

Ward acknowledged that the Tigers attacked his unit in many ways and seemed like they couldn’t be stopped. 

“It had to be a little bit of everything,” Ward said. “Even when they threw the ball on the perimeter, we didn’t make the tackles. They take a five-yard hitch play that turned into a 14-15 yard gain. So again, they exposed us every way they can.” 

Moore,  who sprained his ankle in Saturday’s game, said that when the Gamecocks were on offense, the defense kept telling each other they had to make a stop. But that never really happened except for Auburn’s last drive when the Tigers punted from Gamecock territory after already running a lot of clock out.

Head coach Steve Spurrier showed how much faith he has in South Carolina’s defense in his press conference after the game. 

He said if the Gamecocks’ last-second Hail Mary was completed, he would have gone for two points and the win. Though, maybe that’s just the Head Ball Coach being the Head Ball Coach.

Spurrier shot down speculation of changes along any part of the staff in his Sunday teleconference, saying all the coaches have job security since they are under contract.

Either way, Ward and his fellow defensive coaches will not worry about that and are solely concentrating on putting out a better product.

“We have to go back to the drawing board; we can't give up,” Ward said. “We have four or more games left, I think. So, the season’s not over. We’re going to continue to work in practice and try to get better.”