Game Balls: Top USC performances vs. Mississippi State
David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s 27-14 loss to Mississippi State and assigns a grade.
One half each for Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain, with Orth’s first half miserable and McIlwain’s second OK. Each struggled to get any rhythm because the offensive line was completely overwhelmed. Each misfired on some throws but also had some solid plays. Overall, they were 20-of-39 for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Could have been a lot better, but could have been a lot worse.
Hard to run when there’s no room. A.J. Turner had 16 carries for 32 yards but it wasn’t nearly his fault – he tried his best but there was only so much he could do when he had three Bulldogs clamped on his ankles. He caught McIlwain’s eye on a swing pass and sprinted for a touchdown, and like his QBs, kept getting up.
Bryan Edwards led the true receiver corps with two catches, which was half what the others collected. Facing a heavy defensive presence, the Gamecocks had no time to wing the ball downfield and had to switch to short routes. Once Deebo Samuel was rendered ineffective on the first play of the game, the receiving game went with him.
They filled in where the receivers couldn’t, slipping past MSU’s defensive rush for 12 catches. Their run-blocking downfield, like the receivers’, wasn’t grand but they were catching the ball in traffic and bulling for extra yards.
If there was a worse grade to give, it would be given. USC’s offensive line was bulldozed all night and never made any kind of adjustment or improvement. Injuries happen, and losing Blake Camper when he was already replacing Donell Stanley didn’t help, but the rest of the Gamecocks’ line is older guys. They all looked afraid Saturday as MSU effectively crushed the offense throughout the first half.
It’s hard to split the defense into separate groups because the unit as a whole was so bad at tackling. The defensive front was carved apart by MSU spreading their ball-carriers out, then having Nick Fitzgerald run. While Ulric Jones had his most productive game with nine tackles and Kelsey Griffin had six, the Gamecocks had no sacks and just two hurries.
Bryson Allen-Williams and T.J. Holloman each had seven tackles and Holloman had an interception, which would have been two had Griffin not been busted for a penalty. All LBs were guilty of not staying in their gaps often enough and letting Fitzgerald carve them apart, but they also had their share of big plays.
The best play of the day was Rashad Fenton interfering to prevent a touchdown. The last-level tackling was atrocious and the coverage wasn’t much better. Will Muschamp has vowed changes to the unit this week, but there are only so many players he can pick and switch.
Elliott Fry was a yard short of another 55-yard field goal but hit two PATs. Sean Kelly continued to prove why he’s one of the best punters in the conference. The return games were OK.
No blocking, no tackling. Really hard to win when a team can’t do either.
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