You may look at the numbers and think that the Gamecocks' defense didn't come to play on Saturday.
East Carolina had 403 total offensive yards, including 333 yards passing. These are pretty big numbers at a glance.
But you need to dig a little deeper.
The Gamecocks caused five turnovers on four interceptions and one fumble recovery. They also sacked East Carolina three times in this game for a total loss of 17 yards. The third-down conversions for East Carolina was only four of 13 on the day.
These are the kind of numbers you'd expect from a top-tier SEC defense. The Gamecocks were able to bring tremendous pressure all day long against a passing offense that's hard to attack. East Carolina's quick passing doesn't allow many teams in the backfield therefore limiting their sack totals. The Gamecocks had three on the day but were nearly close on a few others.
East Carolina's coach Ruffin McNeill knows what the South Carolina defense brings to the table.
"They're a defense that can range all over the field, has great length and speed. Lorenzo Ward is a very talented play caller. Opportunistic is how I would define their defense as a whole. They'll be a strong contender in their division and in the SEC."
Jimmy Legree has been thrown into the mix as a starter at cornerback due to injury but has performed extremely well. Legree completed two firsts in the game against East Carolina: first career interception and first career touchdown. Legree's third quarter interception returned for a touchdown put the Gamecocks up 35-0 at that point in the contest. Legree also had two pass breakups and five total tackles on the day.
Overall, Coach Lorenzo Ward was very pleased with Legree and his defense against East Carolina.
"I thought overall, especially the first (team) defense, I thought we played well. They got some junk yardage in with young guys, but we need to get them experience. I thought Jimmy (Legree) developed confidence with his ballgame."
Legree even forced a fumble on a strip of an East Carolina receiver, but the play was overturned. This is something that is practiced daily with the Gamecock defense and Coach Ward said they do this to see hard work come to fruition.
"We are creatures of habit and when you practice it that's what they'll revert back to. We try to teach them the fundamentals of taking the football. We'd like to have interceptions, but we can create turnovers by taking the ball."
Ward mentioned interceptions and his team was able to come away with four against East Carolina. D.J. Swearinger, Jimmy Legree, Brison Williams and Shaq Wilson all had interceptions on the day. It was the first for both Williams and Legree while it was the second interception of the season for Wilson.
East Carolina didn't score in this game until 1:44 left in the third quarter. This was on a 14 play, 73-yard drive that lasted 6:57. This was the longest drive of the game as ECU did not have a drive go over 2:45 on the game clock until that drive. ECU's next drive was a 10 play, 82-yard drive that ended in their first touchdown of the day. At this point in the game, South Carolina had benched the starters, and as Coach Ward said, they got some junk yardage on the young guys.
You can guarantee that if South Carolina had their starters in, then things would have ended differently for the Pirates. The good thing, though, is this was experience building for guys like Jordan Diggs, Phillip Dukes, the Dixon brothers and more. A blowout win that allows your backups some valuable game experience is extremely meaningful.
The story of the day might be South Carolina's explosive offensive output, but don't forget about the defense. The Gamecocks came to play and they made East Carolina fight for every yard out on the field today.
As the saying goes, defense wins championships.
And South Carolina has a good one.
Defense comes to play against East Carolina
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