David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s last game and assigns a grade.
NO. 23 CLEMSON 35, SOUTH CAROLINA 17
Dylan Thompson set the USC single-season passing record and that’s a terrific accomplishment. His performance during this game wasn’t. He was burned, badly, on the play that he’s had trouble with all year – throwing the ball away under duress – and Clemson recovered a fumble that led to a touchdown. After that, he had happy feet, wouldn’t step into his throws and sailed a pass over a wide-open David Williams that would have been a strolled-in score. He was expected to have lots of trouble with the Tigers’ pressure and did – not his fault – but the way he handled the pressure after that fumble was not good.
The backs knew that they would have a tough time running against the Tigers and they weren’t surprised. They did as well as the blocking would allow, rushing for 63 yards on 33 attempts (Thompson had minus-21 to add due to sacks) with a handful of explosive plays. It was actually kind of impressive considering Brandon Wilds went down after two carries.
Where was Nick Jones? Why did Pharoh Cooper only receive two catches? Clemson’s defense bottled those two up and forced Thompson to rely on the route-challenged Shaq Roland and his backs coming from behind. The receivers hung in for some tough grabs but Clemson’s defense took away Thompson’s safety nets.
With Busta Anderson done early and Jerell Adams contained, they were rather quiet. Anderson had a great catch on the play where he was hurt, though.
The line knew it had to protect Thompson because the run game would probably be shut down, and, frankly, it didn’t. The Gamecocks’ front five, even with tight ends added to block, was abused. Thompson was sacked four times and hurried eight. The running backs had little room to operate. Clemson’s defense is very good but the Gamecocks were moving the ball early, and not when they had to late.
It’s a defense-wide grade that a guy with a torn ACL was allowed to be untouched, but it’s mostly on the defensive line. The Tigers’ offensive line is awful, yet it looked like Stonehenge pillars against the Gamecocks,’ ahem, “pass-rush.” No hurries and definitely no sacks. Wayne Gallman rushed for 191 yards when his previous high was 106 (against Wake Forest). The ends acted like they were watching instructional films narrated in Portuguese on the same jet-sweep that burned them four times.
Skai Moore had 10 tackles and an interception. T.J. Holloman had seven tackles but missed hauling in a should-have-been interception that became a touchdown two plays later. The LBs shared in the non-existent pressure on Deshaun Watson but shouldn’t have been counted on anyway; the runs by Gallman and end-runs by Artavis Scott aren’t nearly as excusable.
Chris Moody and his pals sat and watched Scott run right by them. T.J. Gurley missed an interception. Missed tackles, refusing to play bump coverage, letting Mike Williams camp in the middle of the field on several third downs. There are nine former Gamecocks playing defensive back in the NFL right now (including practice squads). Seems like a long time ago that USC was known as “DBU” (and that’s not Dallas Baptist).
Tyler Hull’s first two punts were magnificent. Elliott Fry drilled one field goal but missed another from the same distance. Other units, including returns, were strong.
OVERALL GRADE: D
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