Redshirt senior defensive lineman Jabari Ellis celebrates with his teammates following an 18 yard fumble recovery touchdown. This was the fourth defensive touchdown of the season, which leads the SEC and ranks fourth in the country. Photos courtesy of SEC Media Portal.
If the Gamecocks want to find a way to notch their sixth win of the season and be bowl eligible, the defense must find a way to stop the Missouri run and give the offensive side of the ball a chance to put points on the board.
The Gamecocks successfully neutralized the Gator rushing attack, holding them to 82 yards at an average of 3.2 yards per carry. This is the same Florida offense that averages 5.8 yards per carry and over 200 rushing yards per game.
Defensive coordinator Clayton White’s defense stepped up against this formidable rushing attack, which helped fuel the Gamecocks 40-17 upset.
“It takes all of us to stop the run,” White said at the coordinators press conference on Wednesday. “We all have to play our part.”
In addition to his contributions in stopping the run, redshirt senior defensive lineman Jabari Ellis came up with a scoop and score fumble recovery. He ran the ball 18 yards to the end zone after fifth year edge rusher Aaron Sterling knocked the ball free.
“It felt like we were due for a turnover,” said White.
The Gamecocks had a solid two-possession lead before the play, but this gave the Gamecocks a commanding 30-10 lead. White described it as “perfect timing.”
The Gamecock defense registered two sacks throughout the game, one of which was the first of sophomore edge rusher Jordan Burch’s collegiate career. In a press conference on Tuesday, Burch said he was “just waiting on my opportunity,” and it was a “great feeling,” to get one.
He said the coaches have preached to the defensive linemen all season, “do our job and plays will come to you,” That mentality helped him come up with the sack.
The other Gamecock sack came from cornerback Darius Rush, who is the first Gamecock corner to record a sack this season. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Cam Smith said he and the other corners were all “hyped about that one.”
Smith came up with the only interception for either team in the contest, falling out of bounds and keeping his toe on the turf long enough to record the pick.
He said after the game he read a stutter-and-go route, saw Florida quarterback Emory Jones float a lob pass and “just went and got it.”
The Gamecocks are hoping to keep their momentum from their Florida win as they prepare to face Missouri this weekend.
Missouri has been better on the offensive side than the defensive side of the ball this season. The Tigers are led by senior running back Tyler Badie and sophomore quarterback Connor Bazelak. Bazelak, however, is questionable to play against the Gamecocks after suffering an injury during the Vanderbilt game.
Badie, however, will be ready to play against the Gamecocks defense. Badie is one of the top running backs in the conference and is a national leader in rushing yards. Badie is currently No. 10 in the country in rushing yards with 1,030 yards recorded on the year.
“The running back (Tyler) Badie is a weapon,” Head Coach Shane Beamer said in his Tuesday press conference. “A 1,000-yard rusher averaging over a hundred yards a game. He’s their leading receiver. What a player he is.”
The Gamecocks defense will have to key in on Badie, but also be aware of the dynamic nature of the Tigers defense. Head Coach Eliah Drinkwitz has been known for having high-powered offenses at every school he has coached at.
White worked with Drinkwitz when they were both at NC State and knows how productive his offenses can be.
“It’s an offense that’s been productive over the years,” White said. “Wherever Coach (Drinkwitz) has been it’s been a productive offense. They do a great job of formation shifts, getting guys the ball that they need to get the ball to in regards to the run defense.”
As far as team statistics go, the Tigers rank No. 41 in the country in total offense, averaging 432.8 yards per game. The Tigers offense has produced 33 touchdowns on the year.
The Gamecock defense found a way to stop a Florida Gators running game that came into the game as one of the tops in the SEC. Now, The Gamecocks will need to have another strong showing against a Missouri Tigers run game that shows no signs of slowing down
The Gamecock defense held junior Florida quarterback Emory Jones to just 26 rushing yards. Jones entered the game averaging 65 yards per game.
Sophomore edge rusher Jordan Burch celebrates the first sack of his collegiate career by showing love to the Gamecock fans in attendance.
The Gamecock special teams unit celebrates a successful punt coverage. This unit and sophomore punter Kai Kroeger have successfully pinned their opponents inside the 20 yard line 16 times this season, while only allowing one touchback.
Head coach Shane Beamer celebrates the win over Florida with his older daughter Sutton and son Hunter. This win is the second SEC win for Beamer as the head coach of the Gamecocks.
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Alex Jones is a senior multimedia journalism student from Hampton, South Carolina. After he graduates from the University of South Carolina in December, Jones aspires to become a sports writer covering any college sport. Jones has always enjoyed watching sports, and he also played three sports while he was in high school. During the past two summers, Jones has interned with the Hampton County Guardian covering sports and also freelancing on other stories about the county. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends and traveling to see different places.
Nate Shirley is a multimedia journalist student from Charleston, South Carolina graduating in May. He spent the 2021 summer as the social media intern for the Hall Management Group, writing blog and Instagram posts for Halls Chophouse Columbia. Shirley has also worked for The Daily Gamecock as a sports reporter covering a wide variety of events including football, baseball and tennis. He hopes to report for a professional or collegiate sports team as a beat writer.