That’s how long it has been since a Larry Fedora offense left the field with fewer yards than the 293 it gained Thursday night in a 27-10 loss to No. 6 South Carolina. That came on Oct. 11, 2008 when Fedora’s Southern Miss Golden Eagles had 278 yards against Boise State.
“What pleased me is we played a team that snapped the ball 79 times, and they had 10 points,” Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “We have a lot we can work on, but there are some positive things we can take from it.”
The Gamecocks, who finished No. 11 in the country in total defense last year, surrendered 3.7 yards per play, including 2.8 yards per rush. Last season, in Fedora’s first year as coach, the Tar Heels averaged 6.5 yards per play and 5.1 per carry. The worst offensive game of that season was a 410-yard effort at eventual Sugar Bowl champion Louisville.
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“It didn’t go as planned,” said North Carolina wide receiver Quinshad Davis, a Gaffney native. “We have a lot of stuff to work on and we need to go back to practice and work on those things and get ready for next week. At times our tempo looked really good, other times it could have been better, but there where times where we had them on their heels.”
The Gamecocks substituted liberally on defense, partly as a way to minimize the effect of the Tar Heels’ no-huddle offense and a heat index of more than 100 degrees and partly in a nod to their defensive depth. Twenty-seven South Carolina defenders played.
“We planned to play a lot of guys, especially up front,” Ward said. “We knew we were going to need a lot of people. I think we have a lot of good football players on defense.”
Despite the substitutions, the Gamecocks still battled fatigue much of the night, most notably junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
“I don’t think it was just Clowney,” Ward said. “I think the entire defense got winded. We knew going into the ball game that they were going to go hurry up. We tried to simulate it in practice, but that team is the fastest team I have ever seen. I don’t think we’ll play a team that goes as fast.”
Eighteen of the 27 defensive players in the game were freshmen or sophomores. Three true freshmen — Larenz Bryant, Skai Moore and Jonathan Walton — were in the linebacker rotation, although none of the trio started.
“I came out of the game more than I ever did last year,” junior cornerback Vic Hampton said. “I was very proud of the twos and the threes (second- and third-string players) coming in and not making mistakes. I think it will help us down the road because those guys got a chance to play a lot of reps today in game action.”