How South Carolina plans to slow Tua, Tide offense
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS FOOTBALL
Will Muschamp admits game planning for Alabama is a lot different now than it was maybe five years ago when he had to last prepare for a Nick Saban-led Tide team with most of it hinging on one person.
The Tide have turned quickly into a potent, explosive offense—much different than the powerful run-first attack in years past—because of Heisman candidate Tua Tagovailoa, who’s made a habit of creating big plays with both his arm and feet the last three years, something not unnoticed by the Gamecocks.
“If you scale back and give him a lot of time it's an issue as well,” Muschamp said. “Constrict the pocket and don't let him evade, especially to his left hand. I think he's very effective when he goes to his left. Again, his ability to extend plays with what we call off-rhythm plays is pretty much uncanny.”
Stopping Tagovailoa is probably key number one in trying to pull the upset Saturday, trying to keep him in the pocket instead of letting him run around and make the patented scramble plays he’s become somewhat known for since taking over as the Tide’s quarterback.
The Gamecocks are going to try and take away, a least in part, his running lanes defensively, which is easier said than done.
“You don’t have to get creative. You have to play hard. We have to get after him, have to stop the run and eliminate all the big plays,” Ernest Jones said. “The game’s going to be a 60-minute game; it’s going to come down to a few big plays. We might get hit in the mouth, they will get hit in the mouth. It’s what’s going to happen. We just have to come out on top of the big plays.”
Taking away the run game is just one step for South Carolina, but Tagovailoa’s arm talent is still one of the best in the country.
He’s rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown this season but he’s also completing 76.4 percent of his passes for 563 yards and seven touchdowns this season. So even if they constrict the pocket like they want to, it’s still up to the guys in coverage to stay on their man.
“With him, he can throw the ball too,” Jones said. “We definitely want to eliminate him from running the ball and keep him in the pocket as much as possible, stop him from running the ball and not let him comfortable back there. He’s a good quarterback; he can sling the ball. He can make all the throws.”
One of the biggest playmakers Tagovailoa finds pretty recently is Jerry Jeudy, who currently has 240 yards and four touchdowns in two games after winning the Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s best receiver last season.
To try and keep Tagovailoa in check is to blanket Jeudy and try and limit his touches as well.
“He’s a good playmaker, good speed and runs great routes,” Horn said. “He won the award for a reason.”
The Tide currently rank atop the SEC in total offense and scoring, second in rushing offense and fourth in rushing offense.
South Carolina repeatedly used the term “measuring stick” when talking about Saturday’s game (3:30 p.m./CBS) and how this will be a big barometer as to how they compare to some of the best teams in the country.
“They got some big guys, for one,” Javon Kinlaw said. “It’s big on big. I’m ready for it.”