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South Carolina's defense 'made a statement' Saturday


Usually during games, when offensive players come to the sidelines they’re so focused on talking with the coaching staff about adjustments and what’s going to happen on the next drive, it’s hard to really watch what’s going on with the defense.

Dakereon Joyner made sure that didn’t happen Saturday.

As the game went on and the thought of an upset became more of a reality, the Gamecocks’ defensive showing became more and more appointment viewing.

TJ Brunson || Photo by Chris Gillespie
TJ Brunson || Photo by Chris Gillespie

“Trust me I watched,” Joyner said, smiling. “Those guys played their butts off. They played outstanding. They kept us in the game. Everything wasn’t perfect, but I love those guys. Each and every single one of them came up to me and told me they loved me and appreciate me. I’d do the same for them. We’re not perfect, but they held their own.”

Also see: Everything Will Muschamp said postgame

The Gamecocks (3-3, 2-2 SEC) pulled off an improbable upset over the third-ranked Bulldogs in large part because they made one of the SEC’s best offenses look pedestrian for the majority of the game.

They’d hold Georgia to just 17 points, a season low, and dominated one of the best offensive lines not only in the SEC but nationally.

"I feel like we made a statement,” D.J. Wonnum said, “but we still have a whole season to go.”

The Gamecocks sacked Jake Fromm three times, tripling the amount Georgia had allowed in their previous five games, and held the Bulldogs to under 200 yards rushing.

Georgia came in averaging 6.7 yards per carry, finished Saturday with 43 rushes for 173 for an average of 4.02 yards per attempt.

Also see: Instant analysis from a huge win

“I mean, I feel like that’s what we do. That’s what we try to do; that’s what we aim for. Our goal every week is to stop the run and make them pass the ball.”

They’d pick off Jake Fromm three times and force another fumble. Fromm entered Saturday with no interceptions to his name this season.

It was far and away the best a Gamecock team has played defensively under Muschamp at South Carolina, finally putting all of the pieces together against a top-tier team.

“We kind of knew what we had,” TJ Brunson said. “There were times where we didn’t execute how we needed to; whether that’s one person or the whole defense. Today, everybody understood their position and what they needed to do.”

Also see: The latest with Reggie Grimes

For Will Muschamp, who came to Columbia as a defensive guru credited with building dominant units at LSU, Florida and Texas, this was his magnum opus as the Gamecocks’ head coach, doing everything right on the defensive side of the ball to give his team a shot.

It paid off in the end, giving the Gamecocks their first win over a ranked team since 2016 and their first win over a top five team since 2013 against Missouri.

They’ll have another shot next week with Florida coming to Williams-Brice Stadium.

“This was that signature win and we just have to keep it rolling,” Kobe Smith said.