David Cloninger

USC report card: A bad day for special teams to go MIA

South Carolina Gamecocks place kicker Elliott Fry reacts after missing a field goal in the second half against Texas A&M at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday. He had two misses and the USC special teams had a bad day.
South Carolina Gamecocks place kicker Elliott Fry reacts after missing a field goal in the second half against Texas A&M at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday. He had two misses and the USC special teams had a bad day. gmelendez@thestate.com

David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s 24-13 loss to Texas A&M and assigns grades:

Quarterback

Another split game but a grade mostly held by Brandon McIlwain. His numbers were poor and his play wasn’t much better, McIlwain was unable to get the offense going through three quarters. Perry Orth entered and got USC moving but had to settle for field goals. Still, Orth did well and USC’s offense looked more fluid than it has at any time during the past three games. He just wasn’t so good he pulled the grade to passing.

GRADE: D

Running back

A.J. Turner broke 100 yards (with the bulk of it on one play) and Rico Dowdle provided a glimpse of the future with some very strong runs. David Williams only had two carries but at least went forward.

GRADE: A

Wide receiver

They’re missing their best and McIlwain’s inability to throw downfield took the others out of the game. It remains an invisible position after USC completed 22 passes and only nine were to true wide receivers. Not their fault they can’t get the ball, but they could do better blocking downfield for the players with the ball.

GRADE: D

Tight end

Hayden Hurst looks like Rob Gronkowski out there. And he threw the best pass of any Gamecock this season.

GRADE: A

Offensive line

It was half-and-half. The running game didn’t get much but A&M’s defensive front is one of the country’s best. It was disappointing to see Myles Garrett not play and the Aggies still get 10 tackles for loss. Adding a sixth blocker to the line helps and the line has improved from the first two weeks, but it could be much, much better.

GRADE: C

Defensive line

They mostly stopped the middle runs (outside of one crucial break) and played well in side-to-side coverage. The Gamecocks had five tackles for loss and a sack, and the D-line had four of the five hurries. After the first drive, USC settled down and kept the game in reach.

GRADE: B

Linebackers

Jonathan Walton dropped an interception but it didn’t come back to hurt USC. Bryson Allen-Williams had seven tackles with a pass breakup and T.J. Holloman had five stops. No big problems.

GRADE: B

Defensive backs

With Trevor Knight challenging them early, they got lucky with a couple of overthrows but played a fine game. Chris Moody recovered a fumble and Chris Lammons had a beautiful interception. Despite the lack of depth, the DBs are playing very well.

GRADE: A

Special teams

Sean Kelly did his job and threw a great pass on a fake punt, but the rest of the unit picked a bad day to have a bad day. Elliott Fry missed two field goals and the punt-return team had two fumbles, the last by Mark King that led to A&M clinching the game. There were a lot of factors for the loss but the special teams owned many of them.

GRADE: D

Overall

Great effort and the defense continues to shine, despite not having much talent or depth. If only the offense would come around quicker than it has in the first five weeks.

GRADE: C

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