David Cloninger

Report Card: USC still searching for offensive identity

South Carolina quarterback Lorenzo Nunez takes off running in the second half against Missouri on Saturday.
South Carolina quarterback Lorenzo Nunez takes off running in the second half against Missouri on Saturday. gmelendez@thestate.com

Grading the Gamecocks in the 24-10 loss to Missouri:


Lorenzo Nunez played like his description – a freshman making his first road start. He was very good on some runs, hit some third-down passes and made a few too many freshman mistakes. The loss wasn’t lumped squarely on him because his line, receivers, backs and defense didn’t help him, but his three interceptions (on consecutive series) clinched the game.


Running back

This team really misses Brandon Wilds. Saturday’s sub-par rushing day is equally lumped on the line and the backs. Shon Carson was asked to run in the middle, which isn’t his strength, and did nothing. David Williams had some strong rushes, and other times he tiptoed toward the hole and was dropped in the backfield.


Wide receiver

USC continues to wait for somebody besides Pharoh Cooper to help the passing game. This time, it was Carlton Heard and Matrick Belton, who combined for two catches. Not much excitement there. Cooper had nine catches for 102 yards, which raises the overall grade.


Tight end

The Gamecocks have weapons at the position. If they could get the ball to them more often, those weapons could fire more than they presently do. Jerell Adams had three catches, and Kyle Markway had one. If the receivers keep not producing, perhaps put three tight ends in at once?


Offensive line

Missouri brought pressure, and USC did little to stop it. Brandon Shell might have had his worst career game, and Zack Bailey succumbed to the expected first-try-at-center yips (but quickly calmed down). No rushing holes, not much protection … very forgettable.


Defensive line

Qua Lewis had a good game, with eight tackles, but had no pressure on Drew Lock, a condition that afflicted the rest of the line. Cedrick Cooper had the play of the game, sacking Lock for a safety, but it was taken away by a horrendous call. Early pressure disappeared, as did the tackling on runs. Eight tackles for loss, only 2.5 from the linemen.



Skai Moore and T.J. Holloman continue to lead the defense, collecting 18 tackles between them. It’s approaching absurdity how productive they are compared to the rest of the defense. Strong games from each, but Holloman let a pick-six fall right out of his hands.


Defensive backs

No pressing the line; unable to cover Missouri’s receivers; nothing to make Lock turn his head once he saw his intended. Not many points allowed – but enough – and the Gamecocks still have no answers on who their best secondary members are.


Special teams

As Columbians can attest, when it rains, it pours. Elliott Fry missed a 44-yard field goal and Sean Kelly picked a bad time for his worst punt of the season.


Another winnable game lost because of a lack of offensive identity and a defense that refuses to fix its biggest problem. Breaks didn’t go USC’s way, yes, but there wasn’t a lot of USC doing what it could to produce a few more breaks.


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vs. Tigers

Who: USC (2-3) vs. LSU (4-0)

When: Noon, Saturday

Where: Williams-Brice Stadium