It took four games, but something happened in the locker room at halftime during South Carolina’s 31-14 victory over Central Florida Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium that had Steve Spurrier a little bit giddy.
The Gamecocks found themselves trailing 14-8 and having allowed the Knights 118 yards of total offense that included a 93-yard drive. Players were ticked and more than a few had choice words for their teammates.
“We were mad a little bit,” Spurrier said. “That’s good to see. We have such a passive group, it was good to see some guys yelling and ticked off a little bit.”
Skai Moore, who had a season-high nine tackles, was one of the more vocal players.
The first half was unacceptable in my eyes. We shouldn’t have been down 14-8. I came in the locker room and tried to make sure everybody’s mind was right in the second half so we could perform like we should.
Skai Moore, USC linebacker
“The first half was unacceptable in my eyes,” Moore said. “We shouldn’t have been down 14-8. I came in the locker room and tried to make sure everybody’s mind was right in the second half so we could perform like we should.”
Whatever was said must have worked. The Gamecocks pitched their third shutout in the second half in four games and they came away feeling a little bit better about themselves.
15 Number of tackles by Skai Moore and T.J. Holloman
The move of Moore to Will linebacker and the insertion of T.J. Holloman at the Mike spot had a lot to do with that. The duo combined for 15 tackles, two interceptions (both by Holloman), three pass break ups and two quarterback hurries.
“When we evaluated the first three ball games, we weren’t getting the productivity we needed from the Will linebacker spot,” co-defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “That’s why we moved Skai there. T.J. has been a good football player but he’s been playing behind Skai so he wasn’t getting to play. You have to get your best players on the field.”
That combo came up big in the third quarter. The defense forced two punts and Holloman had his two picks to help lead to 20 points.
Holloman got his first interception when the pass deflected off a UCF receiver and he made a lunging grab before it hit the ground. On the second, he drifted back in coverage and quarterback Bo Schneider never saw him.
It’s likely the duo will draw another start together. Holloman had seven career starts entering the season but had seen little playing time the first three weeks. But with two guys on the field that are comfortable calling the defense, communication seemed better.
We both have a lot of knowledge about the scheme. We both can play all three positions. It just flows better, not saying it wasn’t good before, but it just flows better when you have a better understanding of the system. When you have an understanding of the system you can play faster.
T.J. Holloman, USC linebacker
“We both have a lot of knowledge about the scheme,” Holloman said. “We both can play all three positions. It just flows better, not saying it wasn’t good before, but it just flows better when you have a better understanding of the system. When you have an understanding of the system, you can play faster.”
South Carolina needed all the positive energy it could muster. It was coming off a performance against Georgia in which the Bulldogs scored 52 points, and rolled up 576 yards of offense by averaging 9.14 yards per play. The Gamecocks didn’t record a sack or a quarterback hurry in the loss.
3.77 UCF’s average yards per play
USC held UCF to 3.77 yards per play that included 26 yards rushing and 230 yards.
Boosie Whitlow and Dante Sawyer each recorded sacks against the Knights and as a whole had seven quarterback hurries. Whitlow also recorded a safety when he tackled running back Taj McGowan in the end zone.
But Spurrier was quick to say not to get too excited. UCF was dead last in scoring offense and total yards in FBS coming into the game and it played 10 freshmen at times on the offensive side of ball.
“We can’t get too overconfident right now that we’re a real good defense,” Spurrier said. “We have to go stop some good teams. The test is still out there for us. Only thing we did is we came off the deck at halftime and guys made some plays.”