USC Gamecocks Football

Thumbs up, thumbs down: South Carolina vs. Alabama

A look at what went right and wrong for South Carolina football in the 47-23 loss at home to the Alabama Crimson Tide:

Thumbs Up

Shi Smith TD catch

South Carolina junior receiver Shi Smith made the catch of the day for the Gamecocks. The former Union County standout out-jumped two Alabama defenders Shyheim Carter and Jordan Battle to haul in the 31-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to cut the Crimson Tide’s lead to 14-10.

3 for Tyler

A cool moment happened on the first play of the second half at Williams-Brice. Fans at Williams-Brice stood with three fingers in the air in honor of Tyler Hilinski, the late brother of USC quarterback Ryan Hilinski.

Tyler Hilinski’s death shocked the college football world in 2018. Ryan Hilinski talked about his love for his brother in a piece that aired on ESPN College GameDay on Saturday.

“I know it is just a jersey. I am wearing Tyler on my jersey. But I am wearing it for all the people who are going through things in their life,” Ryan Hilinski said in the piece.

It is unclear if that will be a regular occurrence in the third quarter of every USC home game.

Rico Dowdle

Coming into the game, Rico Dowdle and Tavien Feaster were almost 50-50 in carries for South Carolina.

On Saturday, the two running backs had almost the same amount of carries with Dowdle handling 12 times and Feaster 10. But Dowdle was the more effective of the two and turned in a strong performance. The senior rushed for 102 yards, his first 100-yard game since going for 140 yards against Tennessee on Oct. 27, 2018.

Thumbs Down

Costly special teams penalties

Two penalties negated big plays on special teams for the Gamecocks.

South Carolina appeared to catch Alabama off-guard on a field goal attempt in the first quarter. Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp called for a fake field goal and USC nearly executed it to perfection. Holder Joseph Charlton flipped to kicker Parker White, who took it into the endzone from 33 yards.

The problem? South Carolina tight end Kyle Markway was called for holding. South Carolina fans booed the call but CBS Sports rules official Gene Saratore said on the broadcast that it was the right call.

In the second quarter, Joseph Charlton booted a 67-yard punt that was downed on the 1-yard line. But Darius Rush was called for illegal motion. Bama ended up with the ball on the 35 and scored on the possession.

End of first half drive

South Carolina squandered a golden opportunity to go into halftime down by a touchdown.

The Gamecocks had first and goal from the 4-yard line. On the first play, Dowdle rushed for three yards to the 1. Many USC fans and players thought Dowdle got into the endzone on that play, but it wasn’t reviewed by officials.

Hilinski then threw incomplete to Markway on second down and bobbled the snap on third, losing two yards. USC went for it on fourth down but Hillinski threw incomplete to Josh Vann in the corner of the end zone.

When asked by CBS reporter about officials not reviewing the Dowdle play, Muschamp said, “I’ll get fined for the rest of my life if I commented on that.”

Pass defense

Coming into the season, there was a lot of hype surrounding the Gamecocks’ young secondary. But the unit didn’t deliver as USC allowed 495 passing yards, including 444 to Tua Tagovailoa. It was the most yards allowed at USC under Muschamp.

The Gamecocks’ defense was plagued by poor tackling at times, especially on two of Alabama’s scoring plays.

USC had two missed tackles on Najee Harris’ 42-yard touchdown reception. Harris also hurdled a Gamecock defender. Gamecocks JT Ibe whiffed on a tackle that helped spring DeVonta Smith’s 42-yard score.

Lou Bezjak is the High School Sports Prep Coordinator for The State and Island Packet. He has covered high school sports in South Carolina for 16 years and is a two-time South Carolina Sports Writer of the Year by the National Sports Media Association.