There’s not even hope at this point.
South Carolina’s defense is a disaster. There isn’t a dream that it will get better. It’s depending on the other team to mess up. It’s the Gamecocks reverting to the only thing they can do – putting all 11 defenders on the 2-yard line, no matter where the opponent’s possession starts, and maybe it can stop it once the offense is so flabbergasted that it trips over its own feet.
What’s the name of Auburn’s field-goal kicker? No need to know, because the Tigers scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions after the Gamecocks forced a punt on the first drive, when Nick Marshall threw an incomplete pass. They couldn’t hope to get a third-down stop because Auburn hardly ever had a third down – first and second downs were plenty to move the chains.
No tackling, no filling gaps, no magical scheme to fix the problems. This defense is terrible, and it’s going to be this way the rest of the season.
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I can’t say specifically who is to blame. In recruiting talent, it seems a given that prospects will be able to tackle and play fundamental football. Didn’t happen with this group. In filling gaps, it’s hard for linebackers and defensive backs to do that when being pushed back by their own defensive linemen, who are being bulldozed by the offense. Trying to get a pass rush or get an interception is hard to do when the opposing quarterback never has to throw – just run up the middle against the swinging gate that is USC’s line.
Auburn’s fifth touchdown was the biggest example. USC had tied the score at 28 and the hope was back that maybe, just maybe, the Gamecocks could pull this off. Instead, Ricardo Louis took a handoff on a run around end for 75 yards, untouched. It was Darren McFadden in 2007 all over again. But even when USC’s special teams recovered an onside kick, the offense left with no points – the Auburn pass-rush (!!!) – disrupted Dylan Thompson, and he threw his second red-zone pick.
I have defended Lorenzo Ward and his staff a lot. They didn’t forget how to coach between last season and this. But it’s getting increasingly harder to think that higher powers will be able to overlook this season as one bad year. This is monumentally bad. At some point, it’s a case of having to make at least one change to save face.
USC’s offense played its heart out. Nearly everything worked. All it needed was a couple of stops.
Still needs them.