football Edit

Report Card: USC-Arkansas

We break down every aspect of South Carolina's last game and assign a grade. Go to the head of the class if the grades you assigned the Gamecocks match ours. You've heard the rest, now hear the best.
You can tell that sprained foot is bothering Connor Shaw a little bit. He's not getting his feet set as solidly as he used to and is flaring some passes because of it, but he is managing to play well despite it. He wasn't perfect, tossing an interception because he waited a bit too long for his tight end to get open, but he also made some very smart throws after he avoided the first wave of the pass-rush. His touchdown throw to Bruce Ellington was a marvelous case of he and the receiver being on the same page, despite being well out of shouting distance.
Running back
A decent day running the ball, despite there continuing to be no run-blocking. Kenny Miles had some nice gains, and Mike Davis, after being wrapped early, ended with 53 yards against a pretty good run defense. Miles also caught some passes out of the backfield, which I think will be a very valuable weapon over the next three games. I'm thinking that after 10 games, the run-blocking is what it is, so the key is for the backs to keep fighting for that extra yard. They did that on Saturday.
Wide receiver
Boy, Ellington has turned into a nice little receiver. It may be coming at the expense of Ace Sanders, but Ellington has really learned how to get open and not let his height be a deterrent. He had his second straight 100-yard game and showed great awareness on his touchdown catch-and-run, not trying to out-run his closing defenders but drawing them in, then cross-stepping for a clear path to the end zone. For strictly receivers (i.e., no tight ends or running backs), there isn't a lot of production every game, but what USC gets is pretty solid. Just not spectacular.
Tight end
Justice Cunningham, there's no need to every grade you again. This whole year gets an A-double-plus.
Offensive line
Very nice pass protection, not-so-good run-blocking. Same as two weeks ago. What was good about it was that USC knew that Arkansas was good against the run and bad against the pass, so it started out throwing the ball and didn't deviate. I believe it tremendously helped the line not to have to switch back and forth in a tight game, since this one was decided early. It would be nice to see a constant dominant five, blowing apart defensive lines, but I don't know that it will happen - then again, the next two opponents haven't exactly been playing stellar competition. USC will be much more physically prepared than Wofford or Clemson.
Defensive line
It really helped that Kelcy Quarles was able to play. It gave the line a lot of much-needed stability. Arkansas had given up 12 sacks all season, but USC got four on Saturday, and three were from defensive linemen. It is tough to watch Jadeveon Clowney get continuously held and no-called, but that's the SEC. It's also mystifying why Devin Taylor doesn't seem to be impacting games anymore. But overall, USC pressured Tyler Wilson all day, particularly Chaz Sutton.
Shaq Wilson had another terrific game and in the new defensive alignment, D.J. Swearinger was more-or-less playing the spur, which against Arkansas, was in the linebacker's space. Because of that, I'm including Swearinger in the grade. He had 13 tackles and the game-clinching pick-six. No way that couldn't be a top grade.
Defensive backs
The secondary was again charged with shutting down a high-flying passing attack, and while Wilson got some yards (and was helped by some yards-after-catch by missed tackles), the defensive backs played pretty well. They locked down on a goal-line stand, Akeem Auguste knocking down a third-down touchdown throw, and DeVonte Holloman covered his assignments very well. Yes, Wilson threw for 277 yards, but considering he was averaging around 315, that's not too shabby.
Special teams
How about that? Adam Yates had four touchbacks and kicked a field goal (I never take off points because somebody missed a 50-yarder. This isn't the NFL). Tyler Hull flipped the field quite a few times. The return game was rather stagnant, but that's life. USC got a boost from special teams and it contributed to the win.
Lorenzo Ward's switching of the secondary worked, as Swearinger had a great game, and Steve Spurrier, even though he wanted to run the ball, was passing early and often. The only criticism I had was Spurrier putting in Davis to run the ball with his back against the goal line, but looking back at it, it probably would have been hard for Miles to run it, too - Arkansas knew that USC was going to run and stacked the line. The great majority of it was a well-coached game.