South Carolina linebacker T.J. Holloman agreed with the assessment: His unit took care of business in terms of results against Missouri but wasn’t there on a play-by-play basis.
The group held the Tigers to 21 points, not great but not awful, and they got the win.
On the other hand, they gave up 6.1 yards per play, three touchdown drives of 70 yards or longer and 19 “chunk plays” (runs of 10 or more yards and passes of 15 or more).
A pair of interceptions helped there, and that pointed to what USC’s defense has been this year.
“We’ve got to be an opportunistic defense,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “We have to. We’re not dominant enough to where we need to be right now. Going into the year, we need to play really good on third down. We’ve been average on third down. We need to play really good in the red zone. We have played outstanding red zone defense. And we’ve got turnovers. We needed to be that kind of defense right now.”
The Gamecocks came into the weekend ranked eighth in the percent of opponents’ drives that end in turnovers and 20th in SBNation’s metric for how teams convert scoring chances into points.
Muschamp also pointed to a third and 20 on which his team allowed a 33-yard pass, and it highlighted the ups and downs for this group. It survived not being crisp against UMass, then did so many little things well in the upset of Tennessee.
A week later, so many little things, notably tackling, were lacking. USC managed to survive.
The Gamecocks did get three sacks (Mizzou had only allowed six all season), and did so despite often rushing only three and flooding the field with zone defenders.
That was especially in play late, as defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson and USC looked to prevent a big play first and foremost, and then make things difficult.
“Late in the game, I told T-Rob, ‘Make ’em bleed for it,’ ” Muschamp said. “We’re up two scores. Drop eight, expend time and fill up all the zones.”