USC Gamecocks Football

USC-Tennessee report card: Grading a win that wasn’t easy

Gamecocks celebrate win over Tennessee

South Carolina defeated Tennessee 27-24 on Saturday night.
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South Carolina defeated Tennessee 27-24 on Saturday night.

With South Carolina football’s 27-24 win against the Tennessee Volunteers behind us, it’s time to grade the Gamecocks.


He didn’t throw a ton, but Jake Bentley did what was needed against the Volunteers. He only missed five passes, with an interception that was probably more bad luck than anything. He was 11-for-16 for a 156.7 QB rating, ran for 20 yards and led the offense on four consecutive scoring drives. Grade: A

South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley recaps the Gamecocks' win over Tennessee.

Running backs

Will Muschamp had been on his players to break tackles and make more of their runs. Rico Dowdle certainly delivered, averaging 10 yards a carry and hitting 140 yards. Ty’Son Williams was so-so as he moved into a starting spot, and Mon Denson provided a needed surge in the late going. Grade: A

Wide receivers

It was more of a quiet day for this group, with a couple loud moments. Bryan Edwards held on to a deep ball from Bentley for 73 yards, but beyond that, only one receiver catch went longer than 7 yards. Deebo Samuel had the crazy catch to score the Gamecocks’ first touchdown, and Shi Smith almost had another score on a bomb before dropping it. Grade: B

Tight ends

K.C. Crosby made his return as a receiving threat, with a 15-yard catch early. There wasn’t a ton of production from the group, but the run blocking was pretty good. Grade: B+

Offensive line

USC broke off a tidy 5.6 yards per carry, asserting its will against a bad Tennessee defense. The Vols pass rush was mostly quiet, outside a couple moments either of miscommunication or well-designed pressure. Arguably the group’s best day of the year. Grade: A

Defensive line

The return of D.J. Wonnum helped, but they got moved a bit in the run game. The Volunteers aren’t a great rushing team, and they moved the ball, plus Jarrett Guarantano slipped pressure or got loose a few times. But Wonnum came up with the late sack to seal it. Grade: C-


This unit again had some issues preventing the Volunteers from moving the ball until late. They factored into a 11-for-16 UT third down performance, though the duo of T.J. Brunson and Sherrod Greene did combine for 22 tackles. Grade: C-


At times, there were probably issues in run support, but Tennessee had secretly been a pretty decent passing team, especially deep, and it rarely hurt USC. Tennessee only managed four passes of 15 or more yards, one longer than 20. That was despite having to go deep into the safety rotation and playing a freshman corner more. Grade: B

Special teams

Parker White hit both his short field goals. Five of the six kickoffs were touchbacks. There were only a couple punts, but they averaged 46.5 net yards. Deebo Samuel was a little aggressive taking kickoffs out of the end zone, but only one ended up costing USC yards. Grade: A-


South Carolina was playing an objectively worse team in a big spot, and it fell behind early. The Gamecocks repeatedly let Tennessee stay ahead, before finally forcing their way past in the late going. It was in no way pretty, but it was a game South Carolina badly needed. Grade: C+

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp recaps the 2018 win over Tennessee.