David Cloninger

Report Card: Grading the Gamecocks vs. The Citadel

The Citadel coach Mike Houston celebrates his win over South Carolina.
The Citadel coach Mike Houston celebrates his win over South Carolina. gmelendez@thestate.com

Assigning grades in South Carolina’s 23-22 loss to The Citadel:

Quarterback

Perry Orth played very well until the last check-down to Brandon Wilds – which honestly, even if it would have resulted in a first down, wouldn’t have extended the game that much. Orth wasn’t intercepted despite having to throw a lot, made some big fourth-down completions and led the team. The only thing missing was the win – and it wasn’t his fault that it didn’t happen.

GRADE: A

Running back

A running back needs a hole to run through, and schemes designed to get him in open space, so much of the blame belongs elsewhere. Not that the backs are completely blameless – Brandon Wilds, despite his previous demands, doesn’t do much with the ball and had a dropped pass. David Williams was somehow on the field for the two crucial plays, neither of which he made. Shon Carson was strong but wasn’t used nearly enough to impact. Their productivity is also being limited by decisions above them and men in front of them, but each could be much better.

GRADE: C

Wide receiver

If these are the last games of Pharoh Cooper’s career, he’s making us all realize what made him so special. Another near-200 yard performance (and that should have had another 90 stapled to it). Deebo Samuel returned to catch four balls and Hayden Hurst (after an early personal foul) caught two. There were some drops and somebody moved his foot to negate Cooper’s last catch, but overall, a fine day.

GRADE: B

Tight end

Jerell Adams had six catches for 105 yards.

GRADE: A

Offensive line

It couldn’t open running lanes against Division I-AA linemen. While the same run up the middle play-call didn’t help, USC’s line seemed overwhelmed about how to clear smaller and younger players out of the way. Perhaps The Citadel, since it has to face triple-option every day, simply knows how to stop a run. And perhaps guys that were or weren’t given enough recruiting stars to attend big bad South Carolina should have been re-evaluated.

GRADE: F

Defensive line

They knew they had to fight off cut blocks and control the line of scrimmage, and did an OK job in the middle of the game. The big letdown was Tyler Renew’s fourth-quarter run, where he wasn’t touched at the line and all of a sudden had the speed to get past the second and third levels. That wasn’t the D-line’s responsibility, though. They, for the most part, did their job.

GRADE: B

Linebackers

They had to contain any back that got through the first line or to the edge and they weren’t burned often, just enough. Cam Jackson early and Renew late had USC’s LBs out of position and out of time, which should never happen against a Division I-AA opponent. Skai Moore sitting on the sideline wasn’t his fault.

GRADE: D

Defensive backs

They knew they’d just have to tackle and be prepared for one, maybe two passes. Chris Lammons got toasted on the one pass because he let his man get behind him and then played for the breakup instead of going right at his man. Two safeties were playing deep and the tackling on The Citadel’s long runs was abysmal.

GRADE: F

Special teams

The four main players (Landon Ard, Elliott Fry, Sean Kelly and Drew Williams) deserve their own parade after this season. Outstanding work each and every day.

GRADE: A

Overall

Once again, the Gamecocks didn’t show up early and didn’t have enough firepower to get past a late opponent comeback. Questionable coaching decisions impacted a lot of key players, leading to an inexplicable loss to a team USC should always handily beat.

GRADE: D

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