Through one half, South Carolina looked like it might be able to hang with Georgia on Saturday — after a rough opening drive, the Gamecock defense was holding the Bulldogs to 113 yards and a 1-of-5 mark on third downs.
But in the third quarter, things quickly went south, with quarterback Jake Fromm’s unit ripping through USC for three touchdowns and 226 yards on three drives. They never looked back in the 41-17 rout.
Throughout those third-quarter drives, broken or missed tackles seemed to be a regular occurrence, an issue coach Will Muschamp took the blame for.
“We didn’t tackle as well, we didn’t get lined up a couple times (in the second half). That’s something that’s very frustrating and correctable,” Muschamp said.
Making matters worse, Georgia had the talent to exploit the slightest Carolina mistake.
“They do a great job of creating space. We said it all week. You gotta leverage the ball, you gotta tackle in space, get the ball on the ground,” Muschamp said.
But talent alone didn’t account for all the struggles, and senior defensive back Steven Montac pointed out the easy fix, making the Gamecocks’ inability to do so even more frustrating.
“They’re a good team and they have good players, so missed tackles are definitely gonna hurt. But that can be fixed by just running to the ball,” he said.
Junior linebacker T.J. Brunson, a leader of the defensive unit, said the problem was that some of his teammates lost their edge after the halftime break.
“I think during the second half a lot of guys just didn’t understand the grind of the game,” Brunson said. “It’s hard to win, especially playing against those guys. It’s always going to be a dog fight, but it’s the second game of the season. We got a long way to go.
“We just didn’t line fast enough, weren’t urgent. That’s all it boiled down to — urgency, being vocal, getting the calls every down.”
The issues with tackling came with that lack of urgency, Brunson said, as poor focus led to poor execution.
“I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but I just want those guys to understand that it’s a long game,” he said. “It’s always a long game. We battled, we fought the first half and made it to where it was manageable, and you just gotta keep that same energy throughout the whole game.”
Montac was just as blunt in his assessment.
“We just gotta tackle better. That’s it,” he said. “What happened today was ... lack of execution. We just gotta focus way better, play better.”
Montac also identified himself as one of the players Brunson described as losing focus.
“It starts with me because I need to focus better on tackling, getting everybody lined up,” Montac said.
Brunson promised that tackling will be a focus as the Gamecocks prepare for next week’s matchup with Marshall.
“We’re going to do so many tackling drills this week, I can guarantee you that,” Brunson said. “Those are things that can be fixed. It just comes down to technique and confidence that you make tackles. Those things will be fixed.”