One didn’t have to do too much reading between the lines of what South Carolina linebacker T.J. Brunson said.
His exact words centered around some players on South Carolina’s defense not understanding the four-quarter nature of the college game in a loss to Georgia. He was asked directly if he thought some teammates felt beaten in the second half.
“I think so,” Brunson said. “During the second half, a lot of guys just didn’t understand the grind of the game.”
It’s a harsh criticism from a player the coaches count on as a voice of South Carolina’s defense.
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A few days later, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp wanted to clear things up. Although the outcome wasn’t at all what the staff wanted, the effort was certainly there.
“I don’t think we need to confuse not playing well and not trying,” Muschamp said. “We tried. Our guys played hard.”. “Our guys fought their butts off in the first half to put themselves in a position. We didn’t come out the second half and we got blocked and didn’t respond well defensively.”
He focused on communication issues as a culprit for the defense. The Gamecocks opened the second half by allowing three touchdowns on three possessions.
That was an area Muschamp seemed particularly bothered by, especially in light of a good deal of focus on the offense. The previous two Georgia games were much closer, but that was because the defense held up better (allowing 24 and 28 points).
And while the Georgia game ranks up there among the three worst defensive performances statistically in his tenure, the effort and fight was not the cause.
“Let’s not confuse not playing well with not playing hard,” Muschamp said. “Our guys played hard in the game. We didn’t get the results that we wanted.”