FAIR CATCH: Gamecocks’ inability to stop the run could prove costly in the future

John Emery Jr. during the first half of a game between LSU and South Carolina at Tiger Stadium...
John Emery Jr. during the first half of a game between LSU and South Carolina at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.(Photo by: Gus Stark / LSU Athletics)(Gus Stark | Gus Stark)
Published: Oct. 25, 2020 at 12:59 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 25, 2020 at 1:00 AM EDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WIS) - It’s been an issue for South Carolina’s defense for the last few weeks, according to Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp.

Despite coming into Saturday’s contests with two straight wins, the Gamecocks were pulling out victories even though the team’s run defense was subpar from the coach’s perspective.

“We’ve got to be able to stop the run,” said Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp. “I was not pleased last week with not stopping the run. I wasn’t pleased at Vanderbilt at how we stopped the run. It’s been a common theme now for three weeks.”

With two weeks where you add to the win column, it could be easy to the untrained eye to overlook something like this, but let’s dive deeper.

First, let’s look at the Vanderbilt game. Now, I’m not one to question anyone about their field of expertise, but on paper, Carolina had their best game against the run allowing 76 net rushing yards against the Commodores on 33 carries. If you negate the -21 yards of sack yardage, Carolina gave up 97 yards and no touchdowns. That’s pretty good.

Now, let’s look at the Auburn game. Carolina surrendered 209 net rushing yards (including sack yardage) to the Tigers on 36 carries. Too much? Definitely. So, if you’re looking at the film and that sticks out, it’s easy to understand why the team’s run defense would be a pivotal concern going into your next game.

However, that flaw in the defense showed up yet again. Carolina gave up 276 net rushing yards to LSU on Saturday on 54 carries. Ed Orgeron and the guys at Baton Rouge certainly saw something and continued to focus on that weakness throughout the game. Furthermore, that game plan took a lot of responsibility off the plate of freshman quarterback TJ Finley, who made his debut against the Gamecocks in place of the injured Myles Brennan.

“To be honest, I was having a hard time in game trying to figure out why were the runs hitting so much,” said Gamecocks linebacker Ernest Jones. “I think it’ll just take me going back and watching the film, but I think sometimes, we were getting out of our gaps or we weren’t running the right stuff, everybody wasn’t on the same page. Stuff like that happened. It didn’t go great”

Granted, you could point to a lot of different concerns for the Gamecocks following this loss, but this one glaring fault has shown up for two weeks. It’s something that has been extremely frustrating for the Gamecocks.

“I’m frustrated more than anything, more than anybody because I’m right in the middle of it,” said Jones. “When any runs hit in the middle, I think it’s my fault. I’m just going to go back and watch the film and see what was going on and just try to get better.”

Thankfully, Carolina has a bye week where they’ll have to figure out to rectify this issue. If not, we could see Texas A&M (who by the way averages about 172 rushing yards per game) attack the same weakness. And that could spell trouble as the Gamecocks begin the final stretch of their season.

This season, WIS Sports Reporter Emery Glover will provide reaction from games in an op-ed called “Fair Catch.” Be sure to catch the latest installment every week.

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