USC Gamecocks Football

South Carolina-Kentucky report card: Defense leads the class

The South Carolina football team won 24-7 against the Kentucky Wildcats. After that outcome, it’s time to grade the Gamecocks.

Quarterbacks: Ryan Hilinski didn’t have a flashy game, and he was under siege behind a line with a true freshman at right tackle. He made enough plays. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a winning game. Grade: B

Running backs: Couldn’t have asked for much better. Rico Dowdle and Tavien Feaster each had more than 100 yards. They each averaged better than 6.8 yards per carry. On a day when the coaches asked more of them, they delivered. Grade: A

Wide receivers: The production was spread out, but there were nice plays from Bryan Edwards, Josh Vann, Shi Smith and Chavis Dawkins. Not the loudest day, but some good moments. Grade: Grade B+

Tight ends: There were no catches on four targets, and they still had a tremendous impact. They helped pave the way 247 rushing yards and 5.4 yards per carry. Grade: A-

Offensive line: There were some pass protection issues with three sacks allowed and five pressures. That being said, the Gamecocks front opened up holes, and that was despite missing a starting right tackle. Grade: B+

Defensive line: Two runs accounted for more than 60 percent of UK’s yards on the ground. Their quarterbacks were perpetually pressured and harassed. D.J. Wonnum had three sacks and Aaron Sterling made his mark. Grade: A

Linebackers: There were a few busts, but overall the group that had some issues with consistency rose to the challenge with a power running team. Bonus points for Ernest Jones getting a downfield interception. Grade: A

Defensive backs: No, they weren’t challenged often, but any time a team is held to 97 passing yards on 34 attempts, that gets a lot of credit. Israel Mukuamu was active. Jammie Robinson and Jaycee Horn broke up two passes. Grade: A

Special teams: Joseph Charlton continued his roll, blasting four 50-yard punts, putting five inside the 20 and making an All-American case. South Carolina had no returns and gave up one or two to UK’s dangerous Lynn Bowden. A turnover by the punt team was an issue. Grade: B-

Coaching: Not a perfect day, but South Carolina installed a few key changes and they worked. The team desperately needed this one and got the victory without much stress. Grade: A-

Overall: No, the Wildcats might not be all that good, but at this point the Gamecocks need to simply stack wins. Vanquishing the streak was valuable in its own way. It wasn’t pretty, but it was needed. Grade: B+

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