I wanted to see how Jeremy Pruitt and the defense would approach the South Carolina game after giving up 38 points last year. But when the offense operates nearly flawlessly and puts up 52 points, it’s not exactly the best crucible in which to test the defense under pressure. Still, the defense had an important role in the big win – especially in the third quarter when Georgia blew it open.
Before the game fades away, I wanted to look at a specific situation Pruitt identified as a problem in 2014: second down.
The main problem, as (Pruitt) saw it, was South Carolina having too much success in second-and-long. There were a lot of long completions by the Gamecocks, many on second down, and Pruitt said there was only one “bust in the secondary”: The second play of the game.
You don’t have to dig deep into the 2015 stats to know that Georgia didn’t give up big plays on any down. South Carolina’s longest gain of the day was for 17 yards, and they had no plays longer than 15 yards. The Gamecocks had limited weapons relative to last season, especially at quarterback and tailback once Wilds went out, but the defense still had to contend with Jerell Adams, Pharoh Cooper, and a playcaller who has had some success against Pruitt.
The Gamecocks started out fairly well on second down, getting at least six yards on three of their first four attempts. Pharoh Cooper’s longest gain of the day came on the game’s second play: a 13-yard run to the left side. Orth completed two second down passes on South Carolina’s second drive that led to a field goal. That was as much second down success as they’d have until the fourth quarter with the game decided.
If South Carolina had the slightest bit of success on second down in the first half, Georgia shut it down in the third quarter. South Carolina faced five second down plays in the third quarter. They had an incompletion and four runs that totaled just seven yards. The Georgia defense took complete control of the game in this quarter and that included second down.
The Dawgs allowed a total of 81 yards on second down Saturday and only 19 through the air. It happens that both South Carolina touchdowns came on second down, but those were short-yardage carries.
This year’s South Carolina game surely gave Pruitt some different things to work on, but he has to be much happier with how the defense prevented long (or even moderate) gains on all downs and improved in the area with which Pruitt was most frustrated in Columbia last year.
South Carolina’s Second Down Plays
- Run: 13 (<5 yds: 9, 5-10 yds: 1, 10+ yds: 3, 2 TD, 62 yards total)
- Pass: 7 (3-7, 19 yards)