Norwood remembers debacle from a year ago
That's right. Arkansas averaged 9.3 yards a rush against the USC defense just a year ago. Two things will be clearly different with the Hog offense this year - the departures of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Gamecock fans will not miss either one. McFadden rushed for 321 yards on 34 attempts and scored a touchdown. He also threw for one more. Not to be outdone, his backfield mate, Felix Jones, rushed for another 166 yards on just 13 carries, averaging an astounding 12.8 yards a carry.
Junior linebacker Eric Norwood certainly has not forgotten that game, nor what those running backs accomplished. "You can't just get a game like that out of your head," said Norwood.
He got a lot of questions after returning home from Fayetteville. Were Jones and McFadden that good? "They were that good... but they shouldn't have ran for what they ran for. We could've stopped them," he remarked.
"The McFadden run for eighty, which was partially my fault," he responded when asked what he remembered most from last year's game.
"I should've gotten over. I shouldn't have gotten reached. That‘s how it happened."
Norwood said that when they got on the airplane, McFadden's stats were all over the four letter network. He was asked how that made him feel, to which he responded, "Mad. Real mad."
Norwood was a sophomore last season and was thrust into a leadership role on the defense when Senior linebacker Jasper Brinkley went down with a season-ending knee injury just three games into the season. That Arkansas game was a humbling experience for Norwood and the entire defense. Norwood does not want his team's focus to be revenge this season, rather, he wants them to look forward. He knows that this Razorback team can be dangerous. "They've got a real capable team. Even though they had been struggling, they've picked it up in the last couple of games.
"They have a real explosive offense at times. Michael Smith is a good running back and Casey Dick can throw the ball."
Eric Norwood was moved to linebacker this season from defensive end and the move has given him freedom to roam. His size and speed allow Ellis Johnson to use him as somewhat of a hybrid player. He can get Norwood into the four point stance or stand him up and move him around making it more difficult for opposing offenses to read the defense. Norwood has benefited from this scheme and leads this year's club in sacks with four. He also leads the team in tackles for loss with 7.5 for a total loss of 35 yards, and he is second on the team in tackles behind Emanuel Cook. Quite simply, Norwood is wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.
The Gamecock defense is coming off one of its finest performances of the season. With 12 sacks coming into last week's game, the defense added six more. Two of those were credited to Norwood. Arkansas comes to Columbia having allowed more sacks than any other team in the SEC with 31 (tied with USC). Norwood commented about whether they would exploit this by blitzing more. "I don't know about blitzes," he said. "You'll see a lot of three man and four man fronts.
"We'll see what kind of pressure we can get (from that). If we can get four man pressure, it would be nice."
Last week the Gamecocks became bowl eligible, winning their sixth game of the year. They also did it by defeating the Tennessee Volunteers, killing two birds with one stone. However, six wins was not the magic number for this team that still has three remaining regular season games and a bowl game to play. "We had six wins last year, and we took it for granted," Norwood reminded.
Norwood is looking to spend more time in the Hogs backfield this Saturday. He is looking to limit Michael Smith's running success and to force Casey Dick to get rid of the ball earlier than he wants to. He is looking to eliminate the bad taste of last year's lackluster performance against the Razorbacks, and most importantly, he is looking for win number seven.
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