South Carolina’s defense delivered the kind of performance that made an upset over Florida possible Saturday, but didn’t. It was a groundhog day feeling for the Gamecocks.
The key was the stops. Inside USC’s 25 yard line, a forced fumble prevented a score. The next series, Gators quarterback Austin Appleby lost the ball.
An interception on the 30 erased good field position for Florida. Drives that got inside the Gamecocks 40 and 20 only produced two field goals.
Throw in a couple reprieves when penalties negated big punt returns, and the Gamecocks lived dangerously, in their coach’s estimation. Those plays covered up not being as dominant as they were against Missouri, UMass and Tennessee.
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They allowed the second-most yards per play of any game this season, including three of 26 or more yards.
The Gamecocks let ball-carriers get outside into space, missed tackles and were blown off the ball.
“It’s very frustrating” said linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams, who recovered Appleby’s fumble. “It’s just finishing the plays. You’ve got to finish tackles. We didn’t tackle as well as we needed to in the first half.
“You can’t start slow against good teams.”
Defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth said the defense didn’t play the outside gaps as it was supposed to, and Allen-Williams added the group failed to contain runs that bounced outside.
“In several instances of missed tackles, we didn’t bring our feet,” Muschamp said. “We stopped in the hole a couple times. And when you stop in the hole against a better athlete, it’s a hard time tackling him.”