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. 14 SOUTH CAROLINA 52, ARKANSAS 7
Connor Shaw played another fine game, making the big plays (like running for 18 yards on third-and-17) and directing the offense to another stellar day. He’s rising up the chart for NCAA leaders in pass efficiency, and Steve Spurrier is justifiably wondering why he’s not getting more national attention. Dylan Thompson came in late to complete 4-of-5 passes for 38 yards and a touchdown, while Brendan Nosovitch, although he didn’t attempt a pass, rushed one time for a 7-yard touchdown. The only bad part was a botched exchange between Shaw and tailback Mike Davis, but it wasn’t enough to dock a grade.
Mike Davis posted another 100-yard game, his fifth in six games, and took over the SEC rushing category (in total yardage) after out-distancing Arkansas’ Alex Collins. His one touchdown put USC ahead to stay and the way the game turned out, USC was able to keep him under 20 carries while getting backup Shon Carson his most extensive action yet. Carson had some good explosive runs, logging 56 yards on 15 carries, to save David Williams’ redshirt season, and Pharoh Cooper rushed four times for 45 yards in the Wildcat scheme. Great day, and great for the future – if Cooper can keep doing what he does until Brandon Wilds returns, no need to use Williams.
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Nine players caught at least one pass, with Bruce Ellington hauling in two touchdowns (including a back-breaker before halftime) and former Razorback Kane Whitehurst snatching a high ball for a score. Ellington was the big-time target, catching five balls for 96 yards, but Damiere Byrd had two for 57 and a touchdown despite a couple of early drops (including a touchdown). That was the only critique, but he caught one to make it a put-away game to start the second half.
Not much, production-wise, with Rory “Busta” Anderson only catching one pass for 5 yards. But they did well blocking for runners and fellow receivers, so no complaints.
The five up front continued to play outstanding football, allowing three sacks of Shaw but overall giving Davis the one sliver of daylight he needs and keeping Arkansas’ mammoth defensive ends out of the passing lanes. Na’Ty Rodgers played well after Ronald Patrick was injured and the line held its ground as USC converted 5-of-5 fourth-down conversions.
Not many huge numbers (just one tackle for loss from Chaz Sutton), but the D-line was playing a running team. It held Collins to 69 yards and the guy with the spotlight on him, Jadeveon Clowney, again affected the game. He was in the backfield on the first play, and fought through all kinds of schemes designed to stop him or force Arkansas to run away from him. Not many big numbers, but the line eased the burden on the rest of the defense.
Skai Moore played a great game, leading the team with six tackles, and it will be a big loss that he probably can’t play this week. Like the rest of the back seven, the LBs didn’t allow too much from Arkansas, but also like the rest of the back seven, there were a lot of missed tackles. Arkansas’ two biggest runs (which each ended in fumbles), came through the heart of the linebacking crew and secondary. Everyone shares the credit for holding Arkansas to a mind-boggling 37 plays, and everybody shares some of the blame for the shoddy tackling.
Victor Hampton turned the game around with his interception, on a play where he was simply waiting for Brandon Allen to make that throw. Chaz Elder, starting over Brison Williams, played a fine game. Williams also came off the bench to log four tackles. Hampton was pretty bad in one-on-one tackling, and the rest of the secondary was so-so at it, but overall, it had the stops when it needed them.
Elliott Fry continues to knock ’em through, and outside of one kick that landed out-of-bounds, Landon Ard continues to do well on kickoffs. Pharoh Cooper seems to be the answer in the return game, and there was one 29-yard kickoff return from Arkansas. Overall, one of the best performances of the season.
OVERALL GRADE: A
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