COLUMBIA, S.C. — Bryson Allen-Williams came away saying “that’s not okay” after South Carolina allowed 28 points to Massachusetts a week ago.
The Gamecocks defense had failed to meet their standard of allowing 16 points or less, leaving Allen-Williams and others, including coach Will Muschamp, displeased with the overall effort. But there was a silver lining: South Carolina did reach its goal of forcing at least four turnovers for the second time this season – both games the Gamecocks won.
The Gamecocks see an opportunity to force multiple turnovers again against No. 18 Tennessee on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).
“We want the ball,” junior safety D.J. Smith said. “If they are giving it to us, we are going to take us and then try and get some more. We are just trying to get the ball. Coach (Muschamp) always emphasizes getting the ball.”
As the Gamecocks got down to film study to prepare for the Vols, they saw a team that has struggled with turnovers, at times. A seven-turnover outing against Texas A&M on Oct. 8 emphasized those struggles, also ballooning Tennessee’s stats thanks to five fumbles.
Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs leads the SEC in interceptions, having thrown nine through seven games. The Vols also have surrendered eight fumbles, tied for the second most in the conference. Overall they have fumbled the ball 21 times, with the good fortune of having recovered 13 of them.
Linebacker Jonathan Walton chalked up the high number of fumbles to some tendencies of running a little bit loose with the ball and maybe the occasional careless handoff.
“Dobbs has thrown a handful of interceptions,” Walton said. “That’s why we need the D-line to put pressure on him. At times, we feel he gets loose with it and just kinda throws it up. That would be very helpful if we can put pressure on him.”
South Carolina has forced 14 turnovers in 2016, with 11 coming at Williams-Brice Stadium. The defense forced four in a 20-15 win against East Carolina, then matched it with four forced against UMass last week.
Cornerback Chris Lammons leads the Gamecocks with three interceptions. He and the rest of the South Carolina secondary will be tested by the Vols and Dobbs, whose weapons downfield include deep threat Josh Malone.
“The quarterback throws it up and they try to get the 50/50 ball,” Lammons said. “We just gotta get the ball off them guys. … I’ve just gotta make a play when it’s presented to me.”
But seeing those opportunities at hand is enough to get the defense excited. As Smith said it adds a little juice to the defense.
“This week, hopefully Chris makes some big plays. I make some big play. And the defense makes some big plays and we get like six turnovers,” Smith said. “That’s what I want. Six. I want six of them.”
So maybe the goal of four is raised a little bit this week in some of their minds. But on the goal sheet, it still will read 16 points or less allowed and four of more turnovers forced.
“That is something we want as a defense,” Allen-Williams said. “That’s our standard.”