One of the loudest cheers from the Williams-Brice Stadium crowd on Saturday came for Stephon Gilmore, when an image of the South Carolina alumnus was with shown on the scoreboard during a video montage with all other Gamecocks in the NFL.
Gilmore would have fit in perfectly with what the current South Carolina (1-1) secondary did in the team’s 72-10 win over Charleston Southern (0-2).
The unit came down with three interceptions, one each from sophomores R.J. Roderick and Israel Mukuamu and freshman John Dixon.
“I likely seeing my guys make plays,” Gamecock senior safety J.T. Ibe said.
“[Our defensive backs] picked on me a little bit on the sideline,” sophomore cornerback Jaycee Horn, who has yet to have an interception in his college career, joked after the game. “But it’s all good. It’s going to come sooner or later.”
Roderick and Mukuamu’s interceptions came on back-to-back drives early in the second quarter. Roderick — who started at nickelback — jumped in front of a crossing route on a third-and-nine pass and ran it back to the Charleston Southern 44-yard line.
The Gamecocks capitalized with a Parker White 38-yard field goal to take a 38-3 lead.
“I thought R.J. did a really nice job going to the reception area and high-pointing the ball,” Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp said.
On a fourth-and-two from the South Carolina 37-yard line on the ensuing drive, Mukuamu took advantage of an underthrown ball and came down with his second-career interception.
South Carolina took advantage of the good fortune on the ensuing drive with a Rico Dowdle 5-yard touchdown run.
Dixon’s interception came a minute into the fourth quarter after he snagged an errant pass near the Gamecock sideline. “I thought John did a nice job,” Muschamp said.
Ibe, who played in just four games for the Gamecocks last season, started at safety and had four tackles.
“J.T.’s a sure tackler,” Muschamp said. “He gets guys on the ground in space. He’s a very good communicator on the back end. He has really improved his man coverage ability and I think that’s something that’s been a huge plus for him.
“He gives us another important cog on the back end.”
Said Ibe, “It felt great. I felt confident out there. It felt great to be surrounded by my teammates’ love. I was just happy to be out there and happy to get a win.”