David Cloninger

Report Card: Grading the Gamecocks against Tennessee

South Carolina defensive end Marquavius Lewis pressures Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs on Saturday.
South Carolina defensive end Marquavius Lewis pressures Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs on Saturday. USA TODAY Sports

David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s 27-24 loss to Tennessee and assigns grades:

Quarterback

Perry Orth continues to improve, this week by not turning the ball over. Some of his passes could have been tighter, but he showed tremendous moxie on a fourth-and-goal play for a touchdown and did very well leading the team downfield in the fourth quarter. The only thing keeping him from a top grade is a barely-over 50 percent completion percentage.

GRADE: B+

Running back

That was the rushing attack USC needed. Brandon Wilds had most of the attempts, with some solid contributions from David Williams and Shon Carson. It got better as the game went on – although it really had no choice but to, because it was nearly non-existent in the first quarter.

GRADE: B

Wide receiver

Again problems getting open and again problems making something happen with the ball in their hands. Pharoh Cooper, naturally, led the team in catches and yards. Orth did spread the wealth, though, and Jonathan Walton had a sizzling debut as a receiver with a touchdown catch.

GRADE: B

Tight end

The receivers stepped up, so the tight ends were mostly used to pass block. They share the offensive line’s blame in that job. And while Jerell Adams caught a huge touchdown … his fumble cost the Gamecocks the game.

GRADE: D

Offensive line

Tennessee knocked USC down early and while the Gamecocks rebounded late, there were still problems throughout the game. Holes weren’t opened early and Orth was pressured far too much during the first quarter. It’s a concern with USC about to play an elite Florida defensive front.

GRADE: D

Defensive line

All of the defense was lousy early and OK late. The linemen began shutting down Jalen Hurd and forcing long passing downs, but couldn’t get enough pressure on Joshua Dobbs on third down. Qua Lewis recovered a fumble and got a sack and the D-line had five of team’s seven tackles for loss.

GRADE: C

Linebackers

Skai Moore had 1.5 tackles for loss with a sack and had six tackles. He was topped by T.J. Holloman with seven. They shared in the credit for squashing UT’s running game but were often left gasping by receivers running square-in routes.

GRADE: C

Defensive backs

The non-coverage on passing downs continues to loom, and while Isaiah Johnson had a pick and T.J. Gurley forced a fumble, Chris Lammons dropped three interceptions. They’re making some plays, but not enough.

GRADE: D

Special teams

Elliott Fry missed a field goal and the Gamecocks wound up losing by three points. It’s certainly not his fault since it appeared he was at least going to get a chance to send the game to overtime, but that miss stuck out afterward. Landon Ard did well keeping the ball away from Evan Berry after an early yip, Sean Kelly deserves all-SEC honors and Drew Williams continued to have no problem snapping.

GRADE: A-

Overall

It was again right there to be had. South Carolina rebounded from a bad start and nearly pulled it off, but still lost.

GRADE: C

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