If the past four games are any indication the USC defense is starting to put things together. The unit’s youth and inexperience has been evident this season, especially in the early stages. But Saturday against Mississippi State the defensive players looked fast and confident. Guys were flying to the ball and the defense forced five turnovers that were all converted into points. On a day when the Gamecock offense didn’t have it’s best stuff, the defense was able to carry the day. That’s a blueprint USC has used a lot during its run the past few seasons and it is a welcome sign for defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward.
“I think as you get better on defense and guys understand what they are doing, we play faster and when you play faster you can be more physical,” Ward said after the game.
Three of the five turnovers Saturday were created by freshmen: Linebacker Skai Moore, who made is first career start, notched his first career interception in the first quarter on a pass that was deflected by Vic Hampton. Fellow freshman linebacker T.J. Holloman intercepted a pass in the second quarter, and freshman safety Chaz Elder corralled his first career interception in the third quarter.
It wasn’t just the youngsters that played well. Senior defensive end Chaz Sutton forced a fumble in the third quarter, and Vic Hampton made several key plays in the secondary. After the game Ward singled out Hampton for his effort. “Vic has played well the past couple games,” Ward said. “…I think his film study is etter, and I think he knows what types of routes he is tpically going to get in a game.”
With several players emerging on defense it should take some of the pressure off Jadeveon Clowney to feel like he has to make every play. His stats were pedestrian against the Bulldogs, but stats aren’t something he’s concerned about now.
“We all depend on eachother, ” Clowney said. Everybody’s got an assignment out there to do, regardless of who makes the play or not. I’m not going to make a lot of plays, they might not make a lot of plays, but everybody around the ball gets to the ball and we just stick together.”