USC Gamecocks Football

USC-App State report card: Half passing grades won’t pass overall

South Carolina football dropped a 20-15 game to Appalachian State it desperately needed in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday. With the Gamecocks moving to 4-6 on the season and questions set to hit high gear around Will Muschamp and his staff’s future, it’s time to grade the Gamecocks.

Quarterbacks: At a point, it’s hard to know exactly how much blame to put on a freshman QB.. Ryan Hilinski’s top receivers were mostly gone. Catchable passes were dropped all over. The pass protection was still so-so. He had to throw 58 times. He didn’t win the game, but he stuck in a lot longer than many would. Grade: C+

Running backs: Rico Dowdle got far and away the most work, and he averaged 0.6 yards per carry. Deshaun Fenwick was up and down and Kevin Harris’ lone carry was a fullback dive. The only bright point was Dowdle showing all sorts of fight on some late catches to at least put USC in position to win. Grade: D-

Wide receiver: Availability was the issue, as the Gamecocks only had two of their top six receivers for much of the game. The top option, Bryan Edwards, missed most of the first half. Walk-on Trey Adkins played a lot and caught three balls. Edwards fought through a sprained knee for 90 yards. Xavier Legette made a few plays, but the drops overall were egregious. Grade: D-

Tight end: Kyle Markway was the primary tight end with Nick Muse hurt. Chandler Farrell played some. Markway had one catch and no one blocked well on any front. Grade: D

Offensive line: South Carolina finally had back the full offensive line it wanted, and the result was uninspiring. Even factoring out sacks, USC was under two yards per carry, and that included several scrambles. The pass protection allowed three sacks and three hurries. Grade: F

Defensive line: Tasked with corralling a mobile quarterback, the Gamecocks front held up well. They mostly prevented Zac Thomas from shaking loose and App State didn’t get past 2.5 yards a carry. Grade: A-

Linebackers: Ernest Jones and Sherrod Greene combined for five tackles for loss, 1 1/2 sacks and an interception. Overall, App State was held to a miserable offensive day on the running and passing front. Grade: A

Secondary: The Gamecocks held Thomas to his worst day of the season in terms of yards and rating. Three chunk plays on 15 attempts isn’t ideal, but it’s only three. Grade: A

Special teams: A big Mountaineers kickoff return set up the only offensive touchdown for the visitors. The USC return game didn’t do much of consequence, had a muffed punt and at least one punt that wasn’t caught and rolled. Parker White did hit crucial 41- and 50-yard field goals, the latter a career high. Grade: D

Coaching: South Carolina couldn’t figure out any magic on the offensive side. How much that’s on the coaches vs. the lack of bodies is up for debate, but USC desperately needed this one and posted their worst yards-per-play average of the season against a non-SEC team. The defense was very good, the special teams were not. Grade: D

Overall: South Carolina needed this one and needed it badly. The Gamecocks spent 19 of the final 22 minutes down double digits at home to a good mid-major. Grade: F

West Coast raised. Midwest educated. Southern football indoctrinated. Covers most everything Gamecocks, primarily football.
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