South Carolina’s defensive struggles have been no secret this season, and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said its hard when you’re not used to losing.
“It’s hard for both (the players and coaches),” continued Ward. “You’re not used to losing. We’re accustomed to winning around here and we need to get back to it. You’ve got to keep grinding through it. We’re going through this for a reason. There are a lot of different reasons. We can’t give up on the kids and can’t give up on the system, so we’ve got to keep grinding through it.”
The Gamecocks finished out 11-2 in three seasons and have exceeded expectations the past couple of years under head coach Steve Spurrier. Ward is in his sixth season with USC and his third as head of the ‘D’.
The defensive coordinator lost most, if not all, of his linebackers at graduation last season. In 2013,the defense ranked second in the SEC and 12th in the nation in scoring defense. The veteran notes this has to be one of the hardest years he’s coached.
“Probably the worst I’ve ever been a part of,” said Ward. “I can’t say that because we went 2-14 when I was with the (Oakland) Raiders. We lost 12 in a row I think. It’s tough but you have to grind through it.”
Taking losses in three games with two touchdown leads in the final quarter, the Gamecocks have been hesitant on in-game play.
“I think we’re to the point where because of what happened early when we lost against Missouri late in the game and lost against Kentucky late in the game to where we got in the ballgame on Saturday night and guys were afraid to make mistakes, which made them play tentative. You can’t do that. That’s why you miss tackles in the open field. I thought we could have made some different calls to make them more aggressive in hindsight,” said Ward, “but that’s the way the game goes.”
When asked about the fourth quarter play, senior J.T. Surratt said it’s all about learning from mistakes but didn’t have an answer as to why it was happening.
“I really don’t know. It’s just mistakes, and we live and learn from mistakes,” Surratt stated. “It’s a mistake that we can learn from and this point we are just trying to get better.”
Skai Moore says he thinks it may be a fatigue factor.
“I mean, I really couldn’t tell you. Guys just have to maintain focus throughout fatigue and just stick to their assignment and not be able to have any slip ups and be able to execute,” said Moore.
With the season dwelling down, Ward says the coaches are trying to remain positive and capture a bowl.
“We’ve got three games left in the season and we don’t want to lose those three,” noted Ward. “You want to try to win your next game and try to get some momentum going. The best thing we can do is try to beat Florida.”
Ward said his team has taken a hit mentally and thinks his guys need this time to recoup.
“I think the bye week came at a good time for us,” said Ward. “Guys mentally needed a break. I think, especially with the way we lost the ballgame, this came at a good time.”
J.T. Surratt reiterated Ward’s statement saying, they need to take this time to come together as a team and finish out strong.
“We just need to take this time and like I said come together and figure out, you know, we have a game this upcoming week,” said Surratt. “Are we going to fold or get back up on our feet and keep on going?”