David Cloninger

Report Card: USC-Clemson

gmelendez@thestate.com

David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s last game and assigns a grade.

CLEMSON 37, SOUTH CAROLINA 32

Quarterback

Perry Orth, Lorenzo Nunez and Pharoh Cooper each took turns under center, Orth taking care of the passing and the others trying to pull some trickery. Orth had a rough first half and a fine second, but his first-half interception killed a scoring drive and some of his fourth-quarter decisions weren’t grand. Nunez ran well out of the Wildcat and Cooper was ineffective. Overall, an average performance.

GRADE: C

Running back

Clemson was too strong up front, USC’s offensive line continued to be mediocre and when Brandon Wilds went out with a concussion, the running game suffered. Nunez’s 75 yards gave the Gamecocks inflated rushing totals, yet David Williams and Shon Carson had good days. With better blocking, they could have made bigger impacts.

GRADE: B

Wide receiver

Cooper got a touchdown in his last game while Deebo Samuel finally shed that troublesome hamstring and displayed his potential. Other than one catch from D.J. Neal, the receivers were inactive. Whether it was play-calling or Orth’s decisions to keep rolling out, it took away a lot of targets.

GRADE: B

Tight end

The only time I saw Jerell Adams all day was when he was told to pass-block Shaq Lawson. That didn’t turn out so well.

GRADE: D

Offensive line

The running game couldn’t open holes for the running quarterbacks, although it did pretty well for running backs. Orth was scrambling a lot. Clemson has an elite defensive front and the Gamecocks, like many others, couldn’t hold it off. Four sacks, eight tackles for loss.

GRADE: D

Defensive line

They did well containing Clemson’s runners but the lack of pressure on Deshaun Watson was the story of the game. Watson simply had too much time to throw, especially on third down, as the Gamecocks’ front four couldn’t get off blocks. There were no sacks and the only tackle for loss came from a defensive back.

GRADE: D

Linebackers

Skai Moore and T.J. Holloman were the Gamecocks’ top two tacklers and did well tracking down the Tigers’ runners. Holloman recovered a fumble but each had at least one play that yielded a first down, when Tiger blockers cleared them out of the way.

GRADE: B

Defensive backs

Good open-field tackling for the most part, but they were lost in coverage when USC couldn’t get any pass rush. Al Harris was man-for-man with Deon Cain, didn’t get his arm up and watched Cain gather it in and race past for the touchdown. USC had two safeties playing back deep on third-and-goal, and not surprisingly, gave up an easy TD. While T.J. Gurley played a fine game and Rico McWilliams recovered a fumble, it was the same story – one too many catches allowed.

GRADE: D

Special teams

Each deserves a medal for heroism. It wasn’t Elliott Fry’s fault for leaving a 55-yard field goal short – it was the coaches’ fault for thinking that was a good idea.

GRADE: A

Overall

USC played its most inspired game of the season but couldn’t quite get it done. A few too many mistakes denied the upset bid and while the effort was valiant, the Gamecocks still lost.

GRADE: D

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