David Cloninger

Report Card: Well, at least USC special teams earn an ‘A’

Georgia running back Nick Chubb breaks through the line on a run Saturday. Chubb and the Georgia offense had their way with the South Carolina defense.
Georgia running back Nick Chubb breaks through the line on a run Saturday. Chubb and the Georgia offense had their way with the South Carolina defense. gmelendez@thestate.com

Assigning grades in South Carolina’s 52-20 loss to Georgia:


Another split-screen game, with Perry Orth and Lorenzo Nunez experiencing varying degrees of success. Orth didn’t fare well passing the ball, completing a mere 6-of-17 as Pharoh Cooper was blanketed, and he didn’t have a strong running game to rely on. Nunez ran the ball well, opened the game up and completed four short throws for 18 yards. The two kept trying to get something going even as the game got out of hand, despite not having much hope.


Running back

Brandon Wilds was targeted early and had just begun to slash Georgia’s front seven when he went down with a bruised rib. Shon Carson and David Williams were afterthoughts as the Gamecocks had to start passing or leaning on their running QBs. Nunez and Cooper wound up being the top rushers.


Wide receiver

Not even Cooper could get loose against Georgia. He had one catch. Matrick Belton had four to lead the team. While it was nice to see D.J. Neal get his first grab and Deebo Samuel begin to blossom (one high-pointed catch was knocked out on the landing), the group by and large didn’t show up.


Tight end

Jerell Adams and Jacob August had one catch apiece, trying to do something to help USC’s battered passing game get out of its shackles. Like the receivers, they struggled to get open.


Offensive line

Only one sack as the protection was mostly OK. Georgia’s defense was simply too good. Zack Bailey had a fine evening despite daunting circumstances when Alan Knott went out at center.


Defensive line

It keyed on Nick Chubb early and started to contain him, making him head to the edges for his yards. Worn out late, it was gashed by Sony Michel and even Keith Marshall. As for pass-rushing, it’s hard to get pressure on a guy unloading so quickly, but no sacks, no hurries, no pass breakups? Dreadful.



Skai Moore could sue for non-support. He had 12 tackles, including a textbook stick of Chubb where he met him hat to hat, wrapped his arms around him and planted him. With no pass-rush and no defensive backs to lean on, the linebackers were simply worn out by the third quarter. They kept trying, which is admirable, but through three games, they’ve yet to receive some help.


Defensive backs

Greyson Lambert transferred because he was second on the depth chart at Virginia. If the Cavaliers would have played the Gamecocks, he’d still be there and in the conversation for ACC Player of the Year. USC’s secondary lined up 7-10 yards off receivers and seemed surprised when Lambert kept completing passes to them as they curled and camped. He missed one throw and set an NCAA record for completion percentage. If there was a grade below “F,” USC’s secondary earned it.


Special teams

Steve Spurrier made sure to compliment the specialists, and they did have a fine day. A career-long field goal from Elliott Fry; Sean Kelly’s punts were effective (until the defense threw them away); Carson had a big return; and Landon Ard averaged 57 yards per kickoff.



Offensive struggles can be understood, as it’s a lot of backups who haven’t played trying to be All-SEC candidates. The defense is horrendous and doesn’t seem to have a plan for getting better. While some groups did OK, the ineptitude of the defense and a late-game lack of responsibility drives the overall grade way down.


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