Brad Edwards: Defensive Analysis

Former Gamecock and NFL great Brad Edwards analyzes the top-ranked USC defense for our members in his weekly column. Nothing can compare to the analysis of one who has played the game, and Brad has played the game at the highest levels, first at USC, followed by a sterling nine year career in the NFL. This week Brad analyzes the Gamecock's defensive performance in their victory over Kentucky.

To state the obvious, the South Carolina Gamecock defense traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, ready to play, and did indeed play well. Although this year the Kentucky Wildcat offense has not been one of the better offenses in the SEC, it is still in the vaunted SEC and represented a formidable challenge on the road.

One could look at the statistics and immediately say that USC won the football game by defensively holding the Wildcats to 1-16 on third down. You heard it right - 1-16! As amazing as that statistic is, what is the real tale behind the tape is the success the Gamecocks had on first down.

Throughout the afternoon, Kentucky had 23 second down opportunities with a staggering 15 of them being for 8 yards or longer! USC simply pulverized Kentucky on first down, and for a second year in a row, the Wildcat offensive staff completely mismanaged their overall play calling.

A year ago, Kentucky was almost unstoppable in their perimeter running game early; and yet it was abandoned as they became hell-bent on forcing their Heisman Trophy QB candidate at the time to try and single handedly win the game by making him throw the ball down field.

This year it was on third down where 7 of their passes were thrown, well short of the first down marker. Unbelievable! Well, one man's loss is another man's gain, as they say, and USC was the beneficiary of those poor decisions on behalf of Kentucky. Good defenses like South Carolina's want you to dump the ball off on third down, well short of the first down marker, so that they can simply come up and make the tackle, and that's exactly what they did. It was almost text-book defense, as USC stuffed the Kentucky running game on first down, and didn't bite when the Wildcats tried to fool them with play-action passes.

Kentucky was forced into an afternoon full of 2nd down and long situations where they would try to gain half the distance to the first down marker, and again the Gamecock defensive staff was waiting for them each step of the way.

Lastly, the Wildcats would end up with a bunch of 3rd down and long situations where USC would sit back in zone coverage, taking away the deep ball and making Kentucky dump the ball off underneath, and the Gamecock defenders could then do what they really do best, and that is to fly around and gang tackle the football. You can't draw it up any better than that.

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