It wasn’t a dominant performance by any stretch, but there was a tangible improvement from week one to week two for the USC defense. A little over a week after giving up 99 plays an darn near 700 yards of offense to Texas A&M, Lorenzo Ward’s unit found a way to get a few stops, force a few turnovers, and get off the field more against an East Carolina squad that isn’t as good as the Aggies, but is no cupcake either. The Pirates have a face paced, spread offense that regular rolls up big numbers on opponents.
At the start it looked like it was going to be another long night for the Gamecock defense. East Carolina moved the ball with ease between the 20s but, fortunately for USC, they stalled before finding the end zone. The Pirates scored on their first three possessions of the game, but the Gamecocks mitigated the damage by forcing them to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns on the first two possessions. Ward said he knew they would give up some yards to ECU. The goal, he said, was to keep the Pirates out of the end zone, which, for the most part, the Gamecocks were able to do.
ECU still had too many chunk plays and third down conversions, but you could see steady improvement from USC has the game wore on. In the second half the Gamecocks forced two turnovers on interceptions and held the Pirates to one score. The unit won’t win any awards for the performance, but given what happened in the opener, any progress is good news.
Now Ward and the Gamecock defense will turn its attention to Georgia and its stable of bruising running backs. The Bulldogs don’t employ the same spread principals that Texas A&M and ECU do. Georgia will present a different challenge. The good news is Georgia doesn’t have a prolific passing attack; the bad news is Georgia has the best running back in college football. Ward will have his hands full.