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USC works to clean up defense after loss

By TIM LEIBLE
tim@theitem.com
Posted 9/5/19

COLUMBIA -- The University of South Carolina football team has some work to do. While a lot of attention is being given to its quarterback situation, one of the Gamecock's biggest issues in their season-opening loss to North Carolina was on the …

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USC works to clean up defense after loss

Posted

COLUMBIA -- The University of South Carolina football team has some work to do. While a lot of attention is being given to its quarterback situation, one of the Gamecock's biggest issues in their season-opening loss to North Carolina was on the other side of the football. The USC defense struggled mightily against the Mack Brown-led Tar Heels, surrendering almost 500 yards of total offense in the 24-20 loss.

One of the Gamecock's noteworthy problems on Saturday was defending the run as UNC bulldozed its way to 238 yards. While the Tar Heels didn't find the end zone on the ground, their rushing attack wore down the USC defense all afternoon. Several Gamecocks pointed out that they needed to improve their tackling, an issue that head coach Will Muschamp didn't anticipate coming out of camp.

"We didn't have any issues in training camp that I felt like were major issues there," said Muschamp. "All teachable moments to go back and look at. I thought their backs ran hard and were good backs, but we're going to face good backs all year. That's part of it and we're going to continue to work."

Senior linebacker T.J. Brunson thought the Gamecocks had the right game plan in place, but it's up to him and his teammates to execute that game plan a little bit better.

"I don't think there was a problem with the scheme, we just need to execute better, wrap up and run our feet," said Brunson. "We just need to go out and (tackle). We've been doing it for four years now, for the seniors at least. It's the first game, I guess? I don't know. We just need to come out next week and flush it and get ready to play Saturday."

D.J. Wonnum echoed those sentiments about tackling.

"We just need to bring our feet up in tackles. We (are) arm tackling, tried reaching and players in this league don't go down like that," said the senior edge rusher. "We've just got to emphasize it more and bring up our feet on tackles."

While Brunson knows the Gamecock defense needs to step up and improve its tackling, he's not questioning the effort.

"I don't question effort, I don't think that's an issue anymore," said the senior outside linebacker. "The things that we need to work on are just the details, the small things and those end up hurting you. Things like tackling and understanding where everything is going and just executing on those plays."

While UNC did a lot of damage on the ground, the points came through the air. The Tar Heels burned USC for 245 yards and a pair of scores. Cornerback Israel Mukuamu had one of those touchdowns get past him in the secondary, but he's trying to make sure that one mistake doesn't lead to more because he's focused on a missed opportunity.

"It's frustrating, but things like that happen," said the sophomore defensive back. "Coach always says to have a 'play the next play' mentality. You can't worry about that, just gotta worry about the next play."

The Gamecocks will try to work through some of those issues as they face off against an FCS opponent this week in Charleston Southern. They'll need to iron out those problems now, because Alabama looms around the corner the following week. Muschamp said the focus will be on taking those steps in practice and those improvements will translate to games.

"We need to get back on track and the way you do that is you practice the right way, prepare the right way and then go and get you a win on Saturday," said the USC head coach. "That's what we plan on doing."