David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s 31-21 victory against Missouri and assigns a grade.
The running game wasn’t working early so Jake Bentley had to take over. Even in the face of an aggressive pass-rush, Bentley kept his wits, completing screen after screen as he survived four sacks and countless hits. He finished 22-of-28 for 254 yards and two touchdowns, and showed off some nice scrambles.
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Rico Dowdle took a while to get started, but once he did he chewed Missouri’s weakening coverage for 149 yards and a touchdown (plus another through the air). A.J. Turner had some solid through-contact runs before spraining his knee and David Williams had four for 24. Dowdle missed some holes early, but it didn’t come back to hurt USC.
Having two guys who will go up and get it are immeasurable as Bentley wades into the SEC. Deebo Samuel played his best game while Bryan Edwards continues to scale defensive backs to get the ball. Chavis Dawkins made his only catch of the game one of its most important.
Hayden Hurst and K.C. Crosby continue to help out Bentley, and not just by catching the ball. Each had key off-the-ball plays.
The run-blocking was bad in the first half and slightly got better (again, Dowdle missed some holes and Missouri’s run defense was tired). The pass-blocking allowed constant pressure on Bentley, although there were a couple of times he was hit where he had room to throw.
Once Missouri began running the ball, USC looked unprepared and unconditioned. The Tigers ran through and past the Gamecocks, using their up-tempo style to keep USC off-balance. Qua Lewis had three tackles to lead the linemen but all were guilty of over-running, not wrapping up and not taking advantage of tackles to be had.
They were put in a bad situation due to the D-line, and were hit-and-miss. They had solid numbers and some big plays, and also let some big gains get through. So-so grade for a so-so day.
Pass defense was terrific, USC playing the screens and wrapping up or running stride-for-stride on long attempts. Despite having to play the run a lot, USC’s secondary survived playing without key players for chunks of the game and responded with two interceptions among five breakups.
Some more bad punt returns but coverage was mostly good. Elliott Fry was 1-for-2 on field goals and Sean Kelly continues to do well despite having a sore knee. Nothing too bad this week.
The Gamecocks flirted with letting the game get away but never slipped over the edge. Lot of improving to do, but in the grand scheme, they got a win they should – but mostly had to – have.
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