David Cloninger

Report Card: Grading USC against Texas A&M

South Carolina receiver Hayden Hurst (81) races down the sidelines after a catch against Texas A&M.
South Carolina receiver Hayden Hurst (81) races down the sidelines after a catch against Texas A&M. gmelendez@thestate.com

David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s 35-28 loss to Texas A&M and assigns a grade.

Quarterback

Perry Orth played his best game but the second-half mistakes kept him and his team from winning. The sacks in big situations could have been overcome, but his pick-6 that gave the Aggies their fifth touchdown could not.

GRADE: C

Running back

The Gamecocks had a healthy running attack, aided by Orth’s surprising 66-yard run and a return to the old for Brandon Wilds. Wilds had 128 yards after David Williams started the day with 27 yards on 10 carries, and Shon Carson had two carries for 11 yards.

GRADE: A

Wide receiver

They were there for Orth most of the day, picking open spaces and yards after the catch. Pharoh Cooper led with four receptions (although he dropped a big one), and Hayden Hurst led with 47 yards on his one catch of the day. Shamier Jeffery had two catches, each on 11-yard third downs, and D.J. Neal gives hope for the future.

GRADE: A

Tight end

When in doubt, look for one of them. The Gamecocks haven’t had much in terms of consistent offense this year, but TEs have been there. Kyle Markway and Jerell Adams (Hurst switched from TE to receiver) sparkled.

GRADE: A

Offensive line

Run-blocking was good, pass protection in key downs was bad (Myles Garrett was an afterthought). Mostly, the line held up for Orth but the sacks it gave up late cost the Gamecocks a comeback try. Mason Zandi had one of his worst career games.

GRADE: B

Defensive line

Didn’t move, didn’t pressure, didn’t attempt to show a different look for Kyler Murray, didn’t tackle. The Gamecocks mostly went with a five-man front and nobody could stop a runner or a passer. They could have not shown up and it might have been an improvement.

GRADE: F

Linebackers

They were again all over the field, cleaning up the D-line’s mess and trying to keep the Gamecocks in it. Skai Moore again led the team with 14 tackles, and was the guy who approached Jon Hoke to tell him his plan wasn’t working and to let him handle it. They had their problems wrapping as well, but you might have too if you had to make every tackle.

GRADE: B

Defensive backs

Short passes were frequent, as were missed tackles. Nobody came close to a turnover. Whether it’s scheme or execution, the Gamecocks’ defense is their linebackers and eight holes.

GRADE: F

Special teams

Elliott Fry was prevented from trying a field goal due to an Orth sack, but he was perfect on his PATs. Landon Ard continues to boom them through the end zone and Sean Kelly is the most under-rated specialist in America.

GRADE: A

Overall

Good offense, bad defense. At least it’s not bad on both parts. The Gamecocks continue to believe they can turn it around, but they also continue to lose.

GRADE: C

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