David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s last game and assigns a grade.
SOUTH CAROLINA 23, FLORIDA 20 (OT)
Does one brilliant, game-winning play rule the grade? It can’t, although that was quite a 4-yard touchdown run by Dylan Thompson. The final play was very strong but the three quarters before it were not. Thompson completed just over half his passes for 206 yards and didn’t turn the ball over, but also got happy feet after the first quarter and misfired on quite a few open receivers. He also again failed to step up in the pocket far too many times, didn’t see open receivers in the middle of the field and didn’t let the ball go in the split-second that could have meant a completion. He did hit a big play after a bad snap and blitz and he picked up another bad snap and kept the game-tying touchdown alive. And he scored the game-winner.
Not a lot of yards against an aggressive Florida defense, but Mike Davis plowed for 56 tough ones, including vital ones in the fourth quarter and overtime. Brandon Wilds had 34 yards and each did well catching balls out of the backfield.
The offense fizzled after the first quarter and passing the ball was mostly checked down to running backs from the backfield, but Pharoh Cooper still caught four passes (while being guarded by the best cornerback in the game) and Nick Jones had three big catches. Shaq Roland caught two balls, but fumbled one on a play that could have been a huge gain.
With the wideouts bottled, Jerell Adams and Rory Anderson each played very well. They had six of the receivers’ 22 catches.
Pass protection was strong, mostly keeping Thompson out of trouble, and that’s not an easy thing to do against Dante Fowler and Company. The run-blocking was problematic, but it was expected to be, and the line did get the one tiny gap necessary for Davis and Wilds to push forward. The negatives were on centers Clayton Stadnik and Alan Knott – there were far too many bad snaps that could have meant the game.
Against a team that they knew would run, USC’s linemen played their best game of the season. J.T. Surratt, David Johnson and Bryson Allen-Williams collected 4.5 of USC’s six tackles for loss and Allen-Williams got half a sack. They did allow some long gains and had some missed tackles – story of the season – but overall, they played very well and forced Florida to pass more than it wanted to.
That seems to be an answer – putting Jonathan Walton and Skai Moore on the field at the same time. The two had 12 tackles each and really anchored a defense that knew it was going to have to be strong against the run. Again, there were glaring missed tackles and times where Treon Harris and his backs ran right through missed assignments, but a very solid game from a maligned unit.
Their assignment was mostly to help the linebackers tackle and they mostly did so. Sharrod Golightly and T.J. Gurley each had eight tackles and Gurley – while he did get toasted on one midfield pass because Golightly checked in late and hung him out to dry – had some very solid stops in the open field. Chris Lammons didn’t have a great game but he mostly covered his man.
Yes, a top grade although Elliott Fry missed a field goal and Tyler Hull shanked a rugby-style punt. A blocked punt and field goal to key the win? Squib-kicking to eliminate Andre Debose and nearly coming up with a fumble? Not a perfect day, but without those two blocks, USC is 4-6. Light up a cigar, Joe Robinson you earned it.
OVERALL GRADE: B+
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