David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s last game and assigns a grade. Go to the head of the class if the grades you assigned the Gamecocks match his.
NO. 13 SOUTH CAROLINA 35, VANDERBILT 25
Connor Shaw was terrific on Saturday. He didn’t turn the ball over, led the team in rushing, threw passes into tight windows and was the overall majority director for an offense that rolled up 579 yards. Then when the Gamecocks absolutely had to get yards, while backed up in their own end zone in a too-close game, Shaw called his own number and scampered for 9 yards on the way to grinding nearly eight minutes off the clock. The only reason this isn’t a top-top grade was because Dylan Thompson also played, and threw an interception that got Vanderbilt right back into the contest.
Brandon Wilds got more touches and produced, catching Shaw’s eye on a screen that he turned into a 33-yard catch-and-run score, and Mike Davis continues to show why he’s one of the best weapons in the SEC. He didn’t post another 100-yard run, but he rushed for 77 yards and caught three balls for 67 more.
It was Bruce Ellington’s turn, and he responded with eight catches for 111 yards and a touchdown, snaking the grab under two defenders in the end zone. The ball was again spread around and the receivers continued to go get them. Damiere Byrd finally got a catch and Kwinton Smith even caught one.
A couple of drops, but much more production than usual. While Mason Zandi started the game at tight end, Rory “Busta” Anderson and Jerell Adams each played and played well. Anderson brushed aside an early drop to catch three passes and Adams had two for 16.
While Steve Spurrier said that he and Shawn Elliott didn’t feel there was any game-ball merit among the line, the SEC awarded center Clayton Stadnik its SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week award on Monday. The blocking cleared the way for a strong running game and most importantly, yielded no sacks.
Five sacks for the defense, and four were by defensive linemen. Not too shabby. Jadeveon Clowney made his first big play of the year, a strip sack that caused a loose ball for Kelcy Quarles to recover, and Quarles and Chaz Sutton each got a sack within Vanderbilt’s first two possessions. Yes, the Commodores’ Wildcat package gashed USC late, but it didn’t hurt the Gamecocks that badly – it was more bad field position that did.
Sharrod Golightly had a sack, and the linebackers were a big part of why Vanderbilt only had 268 yards, but it wasn’t a great day in the middle. The play that stood out was Marcquis Roberts running around trying to get lined up, bumping into a referee, and then Vandy immediately scoring a touchdown. They did better than the Georgia game but still have a lot of room to grow up.
The hurry-up continues to get around USC’s defense, and particularly the defensive backs. While Jimmy Legree saved the day with his end-zone interception, the rest of the DBs are alternating their game performances between “Not There” or “Barely There.” It’s a problem with all the pass-heavy teams left on the schedule.
Where to begin? There were some good things, but they were far overshadowed by the bad things. Cannot have turnovers on special teams, and USC had two. The Gamecocks again gave up long returns and couldn’t get any long returns. Tyler Hull hit an 18-yard punt. Steve Spurrier said he was so disappointed in the kick return game that he might just start telling his returners to take a knee in the end zone.
OVERALL GRADE: B-
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState