Gamecock D Expecting to Play Better

The Gamecock defense was not very successful against Cam Newton facing Auburn the first time this season. Newton had a break-out game and has not looked back, all but locking down the Heisman Trophy. The Gamecock defense is expecting better results this time.

When the South Carolina Gamecocks took on the Auburn Tigers down on the Plains on September 25th, Cameron Newton had his coming out party. After rushing for less than 100 yards in each of the previous two games against Mississippi State and Clemson, Newton rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns.

"We didn't play very well on defense," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. "The couple of times we did stop them was because they turned the ball over so it's definitely a challenge for us on defense. They ran for over 300 yards and passed for over 100 so they did whatever they wanted to. So we'll try and improve on that performance."

On just the fifth play of the game for Auburn, Newton sprinted down the right sideline and out-ran the Gamecock defense for a 54-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers the early lead.

"I didn't think he was that fast, but he's a quick guy," Gamecock defensive back Akeem Auguste said. "He can move real well for how big he is - he's real athletic."

Newton also showed that he's capable of throwing the ball well. He completed 16-of-21 passes for 158 yards and two more touchdowns. That makes the challenge of stopping him that much more difficult.

"He does both very well," defensive line coach Brad Lawing said. "That's a tremendous challenge when you've got to tackle a guy that's built like a defensive end - there were several times we missed tackles that we don't miss and that's just because of his physical presence."

When Newton wasn't running or throwing, he was handing the ball off to Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb, whom combined for 155 rushing yards. The 'zone option' was run to perfection by the Tigers, keeping the Gamecocks off balance and guessing who had the ball.

"He's just so big and when he drags his arms it's so long," Auguste said of Newton. "Everybody's got to be patient. #23 will get around that corner, and if you jumpt #23 Cam's going to run right up the middle. It's a lot of assignment football."

As good as Newton was that night, he's even better now, being responsible for over 3,500 yards and 42 touchdowns. For the season, Newton has rushed for 1,336 yards (111 ypg) and 18 touchdowns, while throwing for 2,254 yards and 24 touchdowns.

"He's gotten better," Lawing said. "He's probably more in tune with what they're doing offensively right now. I think he's the best player in the country as far as what I've seen."

While Newton has gotten better, so has the Gamecock defense. The Gamecocks remain #1 in the SEC by a wide margin and 5th nationally in rush defense, giving up only 93 yards per game. In Saturday's 29-7 win over arch-rival Clemson, the Gamecocks limited the Tigers to just 61 rushing yards, 39 of which came on a Roderick McDowell run on the second to last play of the game.

Though the run defense has been steady all season, the pass defense has gotten much better as the season has progressed. The Gamecocks were dead last in the SEC for most of the season, but has since jumped up to 10th. While still not where the coaches would like it to be, it has been a steady improvement the last three weeks. In wins over Florida, Troy, and Clemson, the Gamecock secondary is giving up an average of 188 yards to drop the season average to 245 yards per game.

"We're just making less mistakes and I think that's a tribute to the young men executing the game plan," Ward said. "We know there's not many teams that are going to beat us with speed so if we play fast we'll have a chance."

Gamecock fans know all too well that you can't change the past. However you can learn from the past. That is exactly what the Gamecock defense will be doing this week.

"We looked at some things we did and what we should have done different and we've just got to make sure our kids understand what they're getting ready to see," Lawing said. "We had a lot of mistakes in that first game and if you make mistakes against those guys it turns into touchdowns."

One thing's for certain. The Gamecocks must play better against Cam Newton if they hope to play in their first BCS Bowl.

"We can't let him beat us," Auguste said.

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