The South Carolina defense made resounding adjustments at halftime in its 56-20 victory over Charlotte Saturday night. The Gamecocks had five penalties for 35 yards, including three pass interference calls, and struggled to stop the 49ers on third downs in the first half.
For the first two drives of the game, South Carolina was unable to contain Charlotte’s passing offense. Redshirt senior quarterback Chris Reynolds completed 14 of 20 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns on those drives.
After giving up 175 total yards and allowing successful conversions on seven of eight third down attempts in the first half, the Gamecocks forced a sequence of two punts followed by three interceptions in the second half.
Sixth-year linebacker Brad Johnson was responsible for the first interception and nearly returned it for a touchdown.
“We always talk about on defense, ‘plays come in bunches,' especially turnovers,” Johnson said. “So just with (Gilber) making that play, boosting our momentum on defense for a good start coming out of halftime, I think that just added fuel to the fire.”
Two of the three interceptions came from tipped passes and all were made by different defenders.
In the second half, Charlotte was held to just 81 passing yards and six points. The team also converted just one third down in six attempts.
South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer said Charlotte runs motion plays 60% of the time on first and second downs and that it may be responsible for some of the first-half defensive woes.
“I don't know if it confused us, but it maybe early on softened up the coverage a little bit and kept preventing us from being maybe as physical and competitive as we wanted to at the line of scrimmage,” Beamer said. “But as the game went on, we got a better feel for it, and those guys got back to making plays.”
Redshirt sophomore Gilber Edmond played a prominent role in the defensive changes, notching five tackles — including 2.5 for loss — a sack and two quarterback hurries. The sack was Edmond's first of his career, although he's come close many times.
“I missed a couple of them in the first half. So, I went into the third quarter and just erased those out of my head and just tried to keep playing better ball,” Edmond said. “I went out there and thankfully, I made a move and got my first one. It felt really nice.”
The defense had a much easier time getting into the backfield in the second half and tallied 12 quarterback hurries and five tackles for loss on the night.
Johnson said the defense can make plays in practice as if it’s second nature and relied on instincts to compete in the second half.
“I felt like we were just overthinking in the sense that when the plays were there, we were letting them slip through our hands,” Johnson said. “But I feel like, in the second half, we were able to just play our game, play off instincts and not really overthink in the way that we were doing in the first quarter and first half. And we were able to let loose and have fun and that's when plays started to be made.”