Defense cranks up the heat in Gamecocks’ scrimmage

After the offense had the better of it last Saturday, the defense bounced back with a strong performance today as the University of South Carolina football team held its second scrimmage of the preseason camp on a cool and wet morning in Columbia.

“Our defensive team was a lot better today than they were in the first scrimmage,” said head coach Steve Spurrier after the 61-play workout. “They did a lot of good things. The offense had a few good plays here and there, but a lot of backwards plays – a lot of penalties, a lot of sacks, things like that. Disappointing for some of the guys, but a lot of the guys competed well. Some didn’t compete very well. We’ve got a long way to go. Hopefully we can make some strides between now and a week from Thursday.”

The offense was able to generate two touchdowns, the first coming on a one-yard run by true freshman running back David Williams, and the second coming late in the scrimmage on a 10-yard completion from Brendan Nosovitch to Pharoh Cooper. That TD came one play after the same two hooked up on a 35-yard completion in which Cooper, a true freshman who transitioned to wide receiver in the past week, made a spectacular leaping catch along the sidelines.

“Pharoh Cooper made a couple of catches right there at the end of the scrimmage,” said Coach Spurrier. “We finally got him in there. We’ve got to get him in more often. He can catch and looks like he can make some plays.”

Starting quarterback Connor Shaw was just 2-for-6 for 25 yards with an interception in limited duty. “He bruised his thumb a little bit,” noted Coach Spurrier. “I think he caught a helmet or a shoulder pad or something. Our pass protection wasn’t very good when he was in there. Our pass protection stinks right now. We can’t hardly get a ball off, so we have some work to do.”

The four other quarterbacks didn’t enjoy much more success. Dylan Thompson hit on 3-of-8 passes for 47 yards. Nosovitch was 5-for-12 for 82 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Perry Orth was 4-for-7 for 23 yards and Connor Mitch connected on 2-of-4 passes for three yards.

All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecock defensive line got to the quarterbacks on several occasions. “We acted like we didn’t even try to block Clowney today,” said the Head Ball Coach. “I don’t think any time was he was blocked. We acted like we were afraid to block him. Hopefully he’s that good.”

“We have some pass rushers here,” added defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. “Everybody thinks it’s just Jadeveon, but we’ve got some other guys who can get to the quarterback. Hopefully we can do it during the season. Jadeveon is a special athlete. He deserves all the praise he gets.”

Mike Davis was the top rusher with four carries for 53 yards, including a 23-yard burst. Brandon Wilds added 20 yards on three carries. Jody Fuller led the receivers with five receptions for 49 yards. Cooper added the two catches for 45 yards and a score.

Jamari Smith, who made the transition to cornerback earlier this week, and junior college transfer Ronnie Martin each intercepted a pass during the 50-minute scrimmage.

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