South Carolina’s mantra on defense is “put the ball down” and in Week 1, the Gamecocks executed that mission nearly perfectly.

Coach Shane Beamer applauded the Gamecocks’ tackling efforts, which is difficult in the season opener because they’re limited in the preseason by NCAA rules.

The numbers are impressive: First shutout in 13 years, and it was fueled by 2 interceptions, including a pick-6, 2 sacks and 5 tackles for a loss. Eastern Illinois averaged 2.5 yards per play and was 0-for-9 on 3rd down. Its longest play was 12 yards.

It was impressive that the style of defense, a swarming, meet-at-the-ball variety, helped even out the tackle numbers instead of a linebacker having 15 tackles like they did in years past.

For example, Cam Smith was the leading tackler with 4 tackles, and Damani Staley was just behind with 3. It was revealing that press coverage was evident, and without future NFL cornerbacks like Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina could play more aggressive all around and it pay dividends.

“I don’t care who you’re playing, it is hard to hold teams to zero points in today’s college football,” Beamer said on the Sunday evening media teleconference, per SportsTalkSC. “To have some guys out on defense, to be a first-year staff, new defensive coordinator, all that, opening ball game, to have the first shutout here since I believe 2008, I was an assistant coach here against NC State that night. For that to be the first shutout (since then) that’s pretty impressive. You’re getting a game ball just for that.”

The performance was impressive in a couple of ways. For one, the Gamecocks had a slew of new players, especially in the secondary, which was a big question mark throughout the offseason, and the play was solid.

Sure, it was Eastern Illinois, but it was still a far cry from the porous performances last year against the likes of Ole Miss and LSU. No matter the opponent, the Gamecocks haven’t done a lot of things they did on Saturday in a long time. Another example is the last time the Gamecocks blocked a punt was against Florida in 2014, against a Gators team coached by Will Muschamp. Speaking of notable names, that last shutout in 2008 came against NC State and Russell Wilson, 34-0.

“I don’t know what the encore is, hopefully we continue to create turnovers and score on defense, and dominate the line of scrimmage like those guys did last night,” Beamer said. “If we continue to play hard and play fast and play physical, we’ll be OK. Probably the thing I was most proud of the staff and the defense, we’re always looking for loafs to make sure our guys don’t take off a play, make sure they’re playing every play full speed. We went through every play like we always do and couldn’t find a single play where there was a lack of effort.”

Case in point was Jaylan Foster’s interception that was called back by penalty, Beamer noted how hard the other 10 guys worked to get him to the end zone.

“It was pretty cool to watch,” Beamer said.

Added Foster, “It felt great. The whole summer we heard the doubt from the outside. … Y’all don’t know. This is just the beginning. We are just getting started. Every week we’re going to show what we’re doing.”