By the middle of South Carolina’s loss Sunday to Georgia, the Bulldogs’ offense had been transformed into a bizarro version of itself.
Yes, this was the most competent non-spread offense the Gamecocks had faced all season, and yes, the ground game was always going to lead the way for Georgia. Still, South Carolina’s defense gave up an offensive day that wouldn’t look out of place against an option team.
South Carolina held Georgia freshman quarterback Jacob Eason to 29 yards on 17 attempts. That didn’t matter much, because each of the Bulldogs’ 50 carries went for an average of 6.5 yards, producing a total of 326 yards on the ground.
“You have to play the block, and you have to tackle,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “You can stunt and do as much as we did today, but eventually you have to defeat the block, get off the block and you have to tackle. It’s been an issue here for a long time, and that’s something we’re dealing with and trying as best we can to work through. It’s very, very frustrating to know something is coming and having a hard time stopping it.”
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Georgia didn’t trick anyone. The most notable thing it did outside its base runs was occasionally putting wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie in the backfield.
But they bullied South Carolina, pushing the Gamecocks off the ball. Sony Michel and Nick Chubb each had more than 121 yards, but perhaps the most glaring numbers were that half of Georgia’s carries got at least five yards, and they hit their average with only one run longer than 18 yards.
During the week, the Gamecocks defenders said they were looking forward to a more traditional style of offense, where linebackers could square their shoulders and mix it up inside.
“We practiced it,” said senior linebacker T.J. Holloman, who had five tackles and needed a review to avoid getting thrown out of the game for targeting. “We’ve been over it. We’ve got our scheme aligned and got everything set up. Sometimes we just over-fit our gaps and we got out of place.”
Nickelback Antoine Wilder had a slightly different view on how Georgia surprised them.
“Their personnel,” Wilder said. “We’ve never been in that personnel. We’re usually in nickel personnel. We haven’t ran it this year, so I think it was like a shock. We fit it in practice, but it’s different when the actual team actually runs it.”
Holloman took one conclusion away.
“We didn’t get our job done on defense,” Holloman said. “Our job is to come in and stop the run. That’s what the coaches laid out for us this week, and we just didn’t do that.”