Gamecocks defense struggled getting plays called quick enough against Georgia
COLUMBIA — The stat sheet was enough to make Steve Spurrier blush.
There were more than 200 rushing yards, 300 passing. Sanford Stadium’s scoreboard lit up with five total touchdowns. The chain gang got a workout, moving the marker for 25 first downs.
Pick a problem, and South Carolina’s defense had it Saturday at Georgia. Its biggest issue was the most fundamental, basic part of football.
The Gamecocks couldn’t get lined up right.
“Getting the defensive calls from the sideline into the game, so getting lined up was a problem,” sophomore linebacker Kaiwan Lewis said. “We wasn’t getting fast enough.”
Defending the Bulldogs’ vaunted offense on the road would have been challenging even if everything went smoothly on South Carolina’s sideline. Clearly, it did not.
In hindsight, Gamecock defenders didn’t see a talent deficiency when they reviewed film this week. They watched a mad-dash scramble, a Chinese fire drill gone wrong. USC was practically a boxer fighting with both hands tied behind its back.
Spurrier said there were many defensive breakdowns. He emphasized getting back to fundamentals, and for good reason.
“We didn’t look very good,” Spurrier said. “We’re going to try to get our guys lined up in the right place and let them go play. See if we can play a lot better.”
Calling plays is a group effort, starting with defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. Lewis said linebacker coach Kirk Botkins signals plays from the sideline. He then relays them to teammates. Each phase must be done quickly.
Defensive tackle Kelcey Quarles didn’t blame anyone specifically for the breakdown.
“It was all of us getting calls, not being ready, all kinds of stuff,” Quarles said. “We had problems on every end. But, like I said, we’ve just got to step up and be focused. I feel like if we would’ve came out there focused and determined and with a little bit more fire and passion, we would’ve been fine.”
USC’s defense wasn’t ready for Georgia’s uptempo, no-huddle attack, something many pro-style offenses like the Bulldogs rarely run. Georgia mimicked North Carolina’s hurry-up pace from the opener.
The Bulldogs offense is much more talented than the Tar Heels. Matched with their pace, the Gamecocks’ defense was left in shambles.
“Every time they get a big play, they’ll go hurry-up so we wasn’t getting the calls out fast enough,” safety T.J. Gurley said. “I was hurting us sometimes, but this week we got a lot of quick calls. So if Vanderbilt tries to tempo it, we’ll be ready.”
That’s the question. With an experienced quarterback, Vanderbilt’s offense has the potential to go up-tempo. USC’s defense could be challenged to line up fast enough Saturday when it hosts the Commodores at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Gurley has no doubt his defense will be.
“Vanderbilt probably gonna go uptempo on us because they saw that we was getting killed on it last week,” Gurley said. “So they’re probably going to go uptempo, but we’ve got a lot of quick calls this week, and we’ve been working on it a lot. So we’ll be ready.”