UVA defense stymies potent South Carolina attack

uva footballSouth Carolina conceded early that it wasn’t going to be able to throw the ball against the UVA defense.

The Gamecocks ran for a modest 163.3 yards per game in the 2018 regular season, but they came out bound and determined to make three yards and a cloud of dust work to take pressure off quarterback Jake Bentley.

Augusta Free Press coverage of the 2018 Belk Bowl is presented by Bear Creek. AFP’s coverage is also sponsored by Studio 3•6 on East Market Street in Charlottesville.

It didn’t work, despite what USC coach Will Muschamp tried to claim after the game.

“Well, we moved the ball in the first half. We had a lot of success in the run game and some things,” Muschamp said, which is delusional.

South Carolina gained all of 56 yards in the first half on 15 carries. That’s 3.7 yards per carry, which is not a lot of success.

Muschamp’s offense had averaged 38 points a game over its last five, 32.6 points per game on the season, put up 35 on Clemson, and 600 yards against the Tigers D.

It had 160 yards in the first half, when Muschamp thought his offense was moving the ball, and finished with 261.

Bentley, reportedly thinking about foregoing his senior season for the NFL, was harassed into a 17-for-40, 218-yard, two-interception day.

The ground game, for its part, finished with 43 yards on 19 attempts, including sacks.

Not including sacks, USC ran twice in the second half, for four yards.

So, the game plan was, run, and that didn’t work, and Carolina abandoned the run. But all that did was make it tougher to throw the ball.

Bentley, in the second half, as the run game was gaining four yards on two tries, was 7-of-22 passing for 101 yards, and was sacked twice.

The two INTs came in the second half, killing Gamecock drives in UVA territory.

He was hit early, often, and it affected him more and more as the game went on.

Funny thing, that we learned after the game from UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall that his team played the game with just four healthy defensive linemen.

Four. Healthy. Defensive linemen.

UVA uses a three-man front as part of its base defense, but Mendenhall said the game plan was worked around having two on the field, so that there would be a two-deep.

“That’s what we had,” Mendenhall said, by way of explanation.

The workaround also included a variety of blitzes, from all angles: from linebackers and corners on the edge, from safeties attacking the A gap.

Not only did USC not know where the pressure would be coming from; it was hard for Bentley to tell what the UVA secondary was doing downfield.

“They were schemed up and did a really good job of disguising their coverages,” Bentley said.

Column by Chris Graham


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