The South Carolina defense didn’t let a second-half collapse against Texas A&M in Week 5 define its season.
The Gamecocks scored 24 points off a season-high four turnovers in their 48-22 win against the Razorbacks at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.
“As a coach, when you go through that and you see the hurt in the locker room at the end, you worry about the next week regardless of the circumstances and situation,” coach Will Muschamp said of the Texas A&M loss, in which the Gamecocks allowed 17 points in the second half.
“This was a good game for us defensively from the standpoint of the two-back challenge and not seeing it a lot. I thought Travaris Robinson and our defensive staff had a really good plan and executing the plan.”
Saturday’s win marked the first time the USC defense scored multiple touchdowns in a game since it faced Georgia on Sept. 10, 2011. The touchdowns came from pick sixes by Skai Moore and Keisean Nixon, and TJ Brunson’s first career touchdown, which he scored by returning a strip sack 73 yards.
Along with creating explosive turnovers, the USC defense held the Razorbacks to 106 rushing yards and a 43 percent (6-for-14) third down completion percentage. For Brunson and Moore, the game felt like the most complete defensive performance of the season.
“I think we were all locked in and on the same page,” Brunson said. “…The defensive line played their tails off. I’m really thankful they came out, showed out and did what they did.”
Moore added, “T-Rob was emphasizing that we needed to have a complete game this week, so I think we did that for sure.”
Moore’s 34-yard pick six extended the Gamecocks’ lead to 17 points with 8:33 left in the third quarter. It was his 13th career interception, which is one shy of the school record.
“It’s something that’s been around in my ear,” Moore said of the milestone. “Something that people have been telling me, so it’s on my mind. I’m just going to keep playing and doing what I do. If the plays come to me, I’ll make them.”
Muschamp said he doesn’t remember a time when his defense has scored three touchdowns in a game.
“I don’t think it’s happened before. I think I’ve been around two. Not three. If Jam (Williams) scooped it up, it would’ve been four,” Muschamp said. “I don’t care what kind of coach you are. You can be a field goal guy. It’s good.”
For quarterback Jake Bentley, who threw 199 passing yards and three touchdowns, the defense’s performance on Saturday helped take pressure off the offense.
“Their confidence is through the roof right now,” Bentley said. “To see them playing well gets us playing well and really just boosts the confidence of the whole team.”