David Cloninger

USC Report Card: Help emerges at WR, but DBs struggling

South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper scores a touchdown during the second half of the Gamecocks’ loss to LSU.
South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper scores a touchdown during the second half of the Gamecocks’ loss to LSU. AP

Assigning grades in South Carolina’s 45-24 loss to LSU:

Quarterback

Perry Orth was solid — not great and not terrible. Orth completed 14-of-28 for 200 yards, two touchdowns and an interception (on a tipped pass). He rushed four times for 16 yards. Orth missed a wide-open Matrick Belton for a touchdown and shouldn’t have thrown the ball that became the pick, but he hit two late touchdowns to keep the Gamecocks in the game.

GRADE: C

Running back

No Brandon Wilds (although he was there), which meant no rushing attack. Shon Carson edged David Williams by a yard on the yardage total – 26 to 25. The Gamecocks simply don’t frighten anybody.

GRADE: F

Wide receiver

The A-plus Pharoh Cooper got some help this game – Shamier Jeffery shed three years of near-anonymity to haul in some outstanding catches. While the receiving game still needs a lot of work, somebody flourishing other than Cooper is a positive.

GRADE: B

Tight end

Jerell Adams’ second touchdown of the season, where he caught a ball in the middle and pinballed off a defender to score, should be a blinking red light on how to use him. Not sure why he’s not targeted more, not just on mid-field throws, but on short passes to help out a struggling QB.

GRADE: A

Offensive line

Only one sack allowed, and Orth wasn’t pressured that much, but there were still no running lanes. While the talent at running back isn’t great, having some holes to run through might help.

GRADE: D

Defensive line

Qua Lewis led the team with nine tackles and finally collected his first sack. Otherwise, it was the same ol’ – the Gamecocks couldn’t get pressure on Brandon Harris and another quarterback had a career day. They did help stop Leonard Fournette in the first half, though.

GRADE: C

Linebackers

As the last line of defense against Fournette – if he got to the secondary, he was gone – T.J. Holloman, Skai Moore and Jonathan Walton played fine games. Moore got rung up on a penalty that wasn’t him (it was Jordan Diggs), but otherwise the LBs played a clean contest.

GRADE: A

Defensive backs

Like the same ol’ with the D-line – USC’s secondary can’t cover receivers. They just can’t do it. Whether it’s scheme or talent, quarterbacks absolutely know they can pick apart USC’s defense because they won’t get pressured up front and the DBs can’t stick with their receivers. Diggs … had a really bad game and some early brilliance from Chris Lammons and D.J. Smith was lost in the vapor trail from Fournette.

GRADE: F

Special teams

If there were five missed field goals and 10 shanked punts, this would still be a top grade. Why? For the first time in 13 seasons, the Gamecocks returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

GRADE: A+

Overall

It was going to be tough to win at home and became near impossible on the road. Not having Lorenzo Nunez or Wilds iced the Gamecocks’ offense from the start. The defense played well in the first half, but couldn’t hold on forever. Good effort, no hanging heads, but still the same problems that have hurt all season.

GRADE: D

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