After proving that their preseason place among the nation’s elite was a gross miscalculation, South Carolina is proving that the eulogies read over its season in early November were premature.
The Gamecocks won their second straight game Saturday, 37-12 over South Alabama, and looked nothing like the team that dropped four straight SEC games midway through the season in more than the final score. Suddenly, South Carolina is a team being saved by a defense that could do nothing right through that four-game conference losing streak.
While the Gamecocks offense committed five turnovers against South Alabama, the defense forced five. The Jaguars had 82 yards in the second half and never crossed the goal line.
“That was our goal to not let them score a touchdown,” senior safety Brison Williams said. “I think we did a fantastic job with that.”
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Nowhere is the turnaround more apparent than on the defensive line. The Gamecocks sacked South Alabama’s quarterbacks three times, and three defensive linemen had a tackle-for-loss, which qualifies as great progress from a month ago.
“For the most part, we stopped the run all day,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “It always starts up front. When you play well up front, it takes the pressure off the linebackers and lets them flow freely and fit gaps I am proud of the way the d-line is playing the last two weeks. We are starting to finish. If we can keep that going and keep the confidence, we have a chance.”
The finish was all the more impressive because of the start. South Carolina led 17-9 at halftime with the Jaguars ready to take the opening kick of the second half. There was still time at that point to go completely in the tank. Instead, the Gamecocks outscored the Jaguars 20-3 down the stretch.
“We had to look at each at halftime and say, ‘Let’s keep on playing now,’ ” head coach Steve Spurrier said. “We had some guys in the dumps.”
For now, most of the Gamecocks are out of those dumps. If they can continue this winning streak one more week, they’ll stay there.