South Carolina’s defense took major strides forward in 2016. However, coach Will Muschamp would be the first to say his Gamecocks have plenty of work to do.
Darius English’s impressive season and elevated play from the secondary were among defensive team highlights. Having taken a look at the Top 5 offensive plays of the year, we now lock in on the South Carolina defense and its best plays.
5. Chris Lammons scuttles the Pirates
Cornerback Jamarcus King had a big interception in the red zone, but Lammons took the cake. In the third quarter, ECU quarterback Philip Nelson threw a back-corner fade. Lammons came back on the route, dove in front of the receiver to intercept the pass and preserved the Gamecocks’ two-score lead.
Muschamp had big praise for the play after the game, saying: “People don’t understand how difficult a play that is.”
4. Darius English downs Knight
English, a senior defensive lineman, led the Gamecocks in sacks with 13 and had one of the best seasons in South Carolina history.
His best sack was against Texas A&M. English came off the edge, fighting off a tackle’s block before a guard also came across. As quarterback Trevor Knight stepped up in the pocket, English released from the double team and punched the ball out from Knight’s hands.
Safety Chris Moody recovered the ball and returned it deep into A&M territory.
3. Rising in the red zone
It was a theme of South Carolina’s season: Gamecocks stood tall in the red zone. The best example came on four consecutive plays in stopping Western Carolina — all from the 1-yard line.
First came a run that Gamecocks players stuffed en masse. Second down also was a run, on which group tackling pushed back the Catamounts. WCU went power on third down but still got nothing as Dante Sawyer shot into the backfield to stop the play. Finally, defenders chased quarterback Tyrie Adams out of the backfield and forced an incomplete pass.
That stand kept the game 28-17 late in the second quarter. South Carolina went on to win and secure a bowl berth.
2. Jamarcus King ends it against Tennessee
King had himself a day with two outstanding interceptions. But the second mattered most, as it effectively ended the Volunteers’ bid to come back to avoid an upset.
The Vols got the ball at their 20-yard line with 3:50 to play and the Gamecocks leading 24-21. Quarterback Josh Dobbs dropped back, looked left andthen scanned to his right. King started covering an outside receiver, but when he saw Dobbs wind up he broke off his man. He undercut the route, picking off the pass and crushed Tennessee’s hopes.
1. Bryson Allen-Williams goes airborne
South Florida was driving to open the fourth quarter with its sights on putting the game away by taking a three-score lead.
Allen-Williams would have none of that. USF’s Quinton Flowers pump-faked, but Allen-Williams read the play. The junior linebacker dropped into coverage underneath USF’s Rodney Adams. Flowers put air under the ball, enough to allow Allen-Williams to backpedal, leap and bat the ball with his right arm. Having tipped the ball, he catch it as he fell.
The Gamecocks would drive to score, tying the game with a big assist from Allen-Williams on the interception.