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September 8, 2013

Report card: USC-UGA

Gamecock Central's Josh Low reviews the USC-Georgia game and assigns a grade to each position group and the coaching staff.

Quarterback: Connor Shaw showed up ready to play Saturday against Georgia and performed well. He finished 16-of-25 throwing for 228 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 75 yards rushing in the contest. He made one bad mistake in the game and it was a big one. He made a play with his legs on fourth down that most can't make but fumbled at the end of the play. USC was driving to take the lead at the beginning of the third quarter before the fumble. Other than that play, Shaw was really good. His two touchdown passes to Nick Jones were great throws. He also had some throws that should have been caught. He did a better job of staying in the pocket longer and knowing when it was time to exit the pocket and run. That is what makes him a dangerous threat for defenses. It is unfortunate that he didn't win because he played well enough to get that big road win monkey off his shoulder. Grade: A-

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Running Back: Gamecock fans have to come away from this game feeling the best about this position and Mike Davis. Davis finished the day with 149 yards rushing on 16 carries and a touchdown. He gave the Georgia defense fits all game long. He once again showed that he has the speed to break the big one. I also love how he finishes runs and is always going forward. He doesn't have many runs where he loses yardage. He also made several plays in the passing game. Davis is going to be a star for the Gamecocks. Brandon Wilds did solid in limited action. He did pretty well helping the offensive line picking up blitzes. Grade: A+

Receiver: Nick Jones was the story for the Gamecock receivers. He finished with 97 yards on six catches and two touchdowns in the game. He is probably the most reliable receiver right now for the Gamecocks and finds ways to get open. Damiere Byrd was silent for the whole game and it felt like he struggled to get open. Bruce Ellington got open a couple times but the sun got in his way once. When Shaq Roland was in the game and targeted in the fourth quarter, he looked great. But if he still doesn't know the plays when he is only playing one position and is in his second year, then that is a concern. He needs to be on the field as much as possible and get more opportunities. Grade: B+

Tight End: What to say here? South Carolina has two tight ends in Jerell Adams and Busta Anderson that have all the potential in the world but they aren't being used. They should be match-up nightmares for defenses. The grade here should be an incomplete. Grade: C

Offensive Line: This group surprised the most by far. The run blocking was good once again. A.J. Cann was getting great push and it seemed like USC made an effort to run behind him in this game. I loved the way the line picked up the blitz when Georgia brought it. They gave Shaw enough time to get rid of the ball or find a running lane. Only good things can be said about Clayton Stadnik in his first start. He had a couple bad snaps early but settled down after that. He even got some good push up the middle. Really good effort by this group and Shawn Elliott has to be happy with their performance. Grade: A

Defensive Line: I expected a lot more from the USC defensive linemen based on what the Georgia offensive line did against Clemson. They didn't meet their expectations Saturday. They were getting pushed around at times in the run game. J.T. Surratt had a good game in the middle and productive, but he was the only defensive tackle to say good things about. Kelsey Griffin looked okay in very limited action and may need to play a little more. Kelcy Quarles needs to step up and be more productive. It looks like he is hurt out there. Chaz Sutton needs to be more productive as well. He didn't play a bad game but the defense needs more from him. Expectations are way too high for Jadeveon Clowney. The gameplan is running away from him and it is working. I give him credit that he busted his butt and was running those plays down from behind, and I agree with Clowney that the coaches need to move him around more. The group did get pressure on passing situations forcing Aaron Murray out of the pocket several times. I wonder why the 'rabbit' package wasn't used more Saturday. They had several opportunities to put the package on the field. I think it should be Sutton, Clowney, Surratt and Darius English, in that package. Grade: C-

Linebacker/Spur: This unit was the biggest concern coming into the game and it struggled getting off blocks and tackling Todd Gurley. There is a lot of youth in this group and they will get better, but it will take time. I didn't like what I saw from the mike linebacker spot. Kaiwan Lewis did lead the team in tackles but I thought he missed several tackles. He was out of position and struggled getting off blocks. T.J. Holloman wasn't much better. Marcquis Roberts did some good things. He looked good coming off the edge and isn't scared to stick his nose in there and make a tackle. Skai Moore did okay. This group needs Cedrick Cooper back healthy. They also need the defensive line to help them out more. Sharrod Golightly did okay I thought. Grade: D+

Secondary: I don't understand the gameplan for the cornerbacks in this game. I thought they would come out and play press coverage and try to be physical. Instead they played 10 yards off receivers and Aaron Murray ate them up. Jimmy Legree struggled tackling. Todd Gurley ran him over several times in the game. Victor Hampton didn't make much of an impact in the second half. Ahmad Christian wasn't good. Brison Williams was a complete non-factor the whole game. I know T.J. Gurley is getting beat up some but I thought he did okay. He did come up and make some tackles on Todd Gurley. His coverage was questionable. He has to make a play on the ball in the first quarter when Clowney got to Murray and he just threw the ball up for grabs. The busted coverage late in the game for the 85-yard touchdown can't happen. It was a bad performance but I guess the good news is that the mistakes are fixable. Grade: F

Special Teams: Tyler Hull had a good game punting the ball and Elliot Fry made his one kick. The coverage units did their job. Landon Ard did kick the first kickoff out of bounds but was good after that. I don't think Shon Carson is the answer at kick returner but he didn't have any holes to run through. The onside kick in the first quarter is on the coaches and youth in this group. It was a solid performance but could have been better. Grade: C+

Coaching: I thought the gameplan on offense was good. That is about the only good thing I can say here. They still need to get the tight ends more involved. I can understand why Steve Spurrier called the play on fourth-and-goal late in the game because the option had worked the whole game but I don't agree with it. I didn't agree at all with the gameplan on defense. I think the cornerbacks should have been more physical and the defensive ends should have been playing more outside the offensive line. The defensive staff needs to bounce back next week. Grade: D-

Overall Grade: D+

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