ATHENS, GA (WIS) - If USC fans thought it felt like 2014 on Saturday night against Georgia, middle linebacker Skai Moore isn't going to disagree.
"Not executing, not tackling," Moore pointed out. "It's something we've got to get better at."
Despite Moore leading the defense with 12 tackles on the night,the Gamecocks' permeable defense gave way to Georgia as they racked up 576 yards all while former Virginia quarterback Greyson Lambert set NCAA, SEC, and school completion records going 24-of-25 on the night to help seventh-ranked Georgia come away with a 52-20 win.
"I thought we were ready to go," USC co-defensive coordinator Jon Hoke said. "Felt good about our preparation during the week. Obviously, it was not what I thought it would be."
The Gamecocks had their fair share of struggles in the first half of their previous two games before heading to Athens and those struggles followed them to Sanford Stadium. However, USC had not surrendered a point defensively in their first two contests. That changed immediately as the Bulldogs lit up the scoreboard to the delight of their fans with 28 second half points.
The loss raises a lot of questions regarding what South Carolina needs to do to improve on the defensive side of the ball and that could start Sunday, according to the Gamecock coaches, as they look back at what went wrong.
"They completely clobbered us," USC head coach Steve Spurrier said. "They're a lot better than us. We've got to make some changes somewhere. We've got to do something different."
Following the 2014 season, the Gamecocks opted to bring in Hoke to help shore up the defensive problems that USC had and, for four quarters, it seemed that they were on their way to doing so. But after a 32-point loss where seven touchdowns were allowed and not much seemed to go right, the Gamecocks have to start looking for solutions that will put them in a better position to win.
"It's definitely not the scheme," Moore said. "We've just got to come out and execute. Can't put this on Hoke. This is all on us."
The Gamecocks will host UCF next week at Williams-Brice Stadium as they look to bounce back from this dismal performance. For the Gamecocks, the need to improve defensively has been one that hasn't completely been satisfied since their home opening blowout loss to Texas A&M a year ago. With the Golden Knights coming to Columbia soon, that need has grown even more.
"We're going to have to," Hoke said when asked about improving. "We don't really have a choice."