2. The defense is a mixed bag
The Aggie defense came out of the gate white-hot. For whatever the reason (a shaky performance against Arkansas perhaps?) the entire unit was as close to lights out as they could be early on.
South Carolina started with a pair of 3-and-outs before being gifted great field position at the Texas A&M-33 following a muffed punt by Christian Kirk. The defense held, forcing the Gamecocks to attempt a 46-yard field goal which was missed to preserve a 0-0 tie.
It wasn’t a perfect night, but it was better than the 43 points allowed in last week’s victory over Arkansas. The first big blow by the Gamecocks came on a 45-yard deep pass from Bentley to Shi Smith. Coverage was strong up until Bentley tucked the ball to avoid pressure. That’s when the secondary got caught looking in the backfield and Smith walked nearly untouched into the endzone to tie the game 7-7.
The defense stepped up again later in the second quarter forcing a redzone turnover courtesy of a Landis Durham sack. That became a fairly succinct summary of what this defense is. They’re not going to shut anyone down through the air, and they’re probably not going to silence the better rushing attack either. But, they will force turnovers and they will make some big plays. The question is which one of those extremes will win on any given Saturday.
That narrative would continue throughout the night. Jake Bentley would throw another touchdown pass into questionable coverage to give South Carolina a 17-7 lead in the third quarter. The defense would allow negative four yards on the next two drives, both three and outs, which allowed the offense to tie the game up in the fourth quarter.
It was the defense, with less than 2:00 on the clock, that came up with yet another big play. On fourth down with the game on the line Tyrel Dodson deflected a Bently pass. It feel harmlessly to the turf to seal the Aggie victory.