David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s last game and assigns a grade.
TENNESSEE 45, SOUTH CAROLINA 42 (OT)
Another performance filled with some very fine plays and a handful of bad ones. It seems to be Dylan Thompson’s role that he will be exactly what USC needs for 90 percent of the game. The other 10 is filled with a turnover – his interception from his own end zone where a receiver was 10 yards off the ball – and too many crucial sacks. Thompson took one on third-and-4, a two-down situation where a run could have iced the game, and then two more on the first two plays of overtime. Of course protection was bad, and the play-calling could have been better, but he has to realize those situations and dump the ball at the first sign of trouble. They really take away from terrific plays, such as his 85-yard touchdown in-stride throw to Pharoh Cooper.
Brandon Wilds had the highlight run on a 70-yard scoring streak while Mike Davis had 69 yards on 16 carries, also catching a 34-yard pass. David Williams averaged seven yards a carry.
Cooper had himself a career day, setting the school single-game receiving record and passing some guys named Jeffery, Rice and Sharpe in the process. He’s become USC’s new Bruce Ellington – the guy who will be fearless in traffic, catch anything thrown to him and can also dazzle on the deep route. He was really the only one USC had to throw to, as the efforts to hit Damiere Byrd on a downfield post continued to fizzle.
Jerell Adams caught four balls for 41 yards and perfectly executed his job.
The protection on the two plays where USC needed it most – the first two of overtime – was so holey that Thompson was swallowed nearly from the moment the ball was in his hand. He was sacked five times and hurried five more times. One positive was that Clayton Stadnik did very well snapping the ball to Thompson once he took over for Alan Knott. The run-blocking was good as well.
More attempted arm tackles and not a body behind them. More runs straight up the middle. Not one sack against an offensive line that was the worst in the SEC before the game. It’s hard to think this defensive line could play any worse than it has, and then came Tennessee.
Jonathan Walton led the team with 11 tackles, but he was missing on one he could have had – when Jalen Hurd went right through the middle for a touchdown on fourth-and-6. He was hit and spun away, then stepped through another missed tackle, to score. It’s not all Walton’s fault, of course – missing Skai Moore, the other LBs also couldn’t do what their defensive linemen couldn’t do.
Brison Williams’ interception went for naught when the rest of the defense still gave away the game. The Gamecocks forced a situation where Tennessee had to go 85 yards in 83 seconds with no timeouts, and immediately gave up a 31-yard pass. Jason Croom was left wide-open in the end zone to catch the tying touchdown when two DBs covered another receiver.
Elliott Fry missed two field goals (the last a 58-yarder that was set up by the offensive line’s failure to protect), Tyler Hull regressed to 34.7 yards per punt and the Gamecocks again received nothing from the return game. Landon Ard continues to flourish as the kickoff specialist, with six touchbacks in seven tries.
OVERALL GRADE: D-
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState