David Cloninger

USC-Kentucky Report Card: Gamecocks offense continues to suffer

South Carolina Gamecocks running back A.J. Turner (25)
South Carolina Gamecocks running back A.J. Turner (25) gmelendez@thestate.com

Assigning grades for every aspect of South Carolina’s 17-10 loss to Kentucky.

Quarterback

Brandon McIlwain completed half of his 30 passes for 177 yards with no interceptions, but no touchdowns. He rushed for 41 yards on 13 carries (which became 11 net yards after four sacks). He’s a freshman and still learning, having just made two starts, but his decision-making could be better. He has to step into the pocket and throw the ball, and if he runs, get to the open lane quicker.

GRADE: D

Running back

A.J. Turner had no room to operate other than his 12-yard touchdown scamper. David Williams looked solid on nine carries for 33 yards. Each missed a couple of holes up front but overall, did what they were asked to do.

GRADE: B

Wide receiver

They’re rendered ineffective when the quarterback won’t release the ball, but they could have done a better job running crisper routes against a deplorable secondary, and pass-blocking for tight ends and RBs. Of seven players who caught 15 passes, true wideouts had four.

GRADE: D

Tight end

They were the strength of the team in preseason and continue to be. Hayden Hurst is an all-conference player while Jacob August caught a 29-yard strike in the middle of the field.

GRADE: A

Offensive line

The line played well for most of the game, helped by a decision to add one more player for a six-man front. The first four series were disasters, the last drive wasn’t much better, but it improved a good bit from the first three weeks. Now if it could just play a complete game.

GRADE: C

Defensive line

Darius English and Dante Sawyer teamed for four sacks while Sawyer had another tackle for loss and English forced a fumble. Qua Lewis recovered a fumble. They were guilty as the rest of the defense for breaking down late when Kentucky began running the ball, but it’s hard to stay fresh when on the field most of the game.

GRADE: B

Linebackers

Right in the middle, as usual, of USC’s defensive production. Bryson Allen-Williams had four tackles while Jonathan Walton had five. The runs hurt late but early on, the Gamecocks were swarming to the ball and finishing tackles.

GRADE: B

Defensive backs

Give Kentucky credit for knowing USC is paper-thin in the secondary and going at it in the fourth quarter. The defensive line was blocked and Benny Snell dared the Gamecocks to stop him. They couldn’t do it. While D.J. Smith had a pick and Mark King played a marvelous game, the secondary wasn’t as effective as it needed to be.

GRADE: D

Special teams

Sean Kelly continues to be one of this team’s most valuable players. Elliott Fry kept chipping away at the career scoring record (21 points away) but directed one kickoff directly in the middle of the field to Snell, who returned it 32 yards. T.J. Brunson and Toure Boyd cost the Gamecocks a touchdown when they blocked the back of a defender after Rashad Fenton was past.

GRADE: C-

OVERALL

The season is settling into a trend. USC’s defense keeps it in the game but its offense can’t consistently score.

GRADE: D

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