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.
NO. 8 SOUTH CAROLINA 49, UAB 6
Toughest group to grade, right off the bat. The bravery that Connor Shaw in playing through the pain of a fractured shoulder blade (I've begged off typing with a hangnail before) was very good and deserves an "A" for effort. Dylan Thompson came in and made some very strong throws, even though a couple of lucky bounces put him in position to make those strong throws. Seth Strickland and Andrew Clifford (briefly) played well, but it was in garbage time. Overall, 15 made throws, 12 missed ones, an interception where it appeared to be the receiver running the wrong route, three touchdowns. Not too shabby, but nothing to earn a scholly to Princeton over.
Also a bit hard to judge because I saw, and Steve Spurrier agreed with me, that the run-blocking was and has been suspect. Marcus Lattimore was held to 85 yards on 12 carries, most of the damage done on a 43-yard run in the third quarter. Mike Davis had some great numbers, posting 84 yards on four carries and a touchdown, but it was late in the game when UAB had to be feeling worn out. Lattimore seems to be doing all he can, and Davis had some really nice runs, but Kenny Miles was held up nearly every time he rushed. Another average performance.
Lot of credit to these guys, who adjusted to a quarterback switch and still made some spectacular plays. Bruce Ellington is becoming a very steady and sometimes-dynamic wideout. Ace Sanders finally broke loose, even scoring a touchdown where he high-stepped/hurdled into the end zone. Damiere Byrd hooked up with Thompson on a beautiful go-route touchdown, and Shaq Roland tasted goal line for the first time in college when Thompson hit him in the back of the end zone. Blocking was a little suspect, but nothing to dock a grade over.
Hardly any production (one catch) and the tight ends are grouped with the offensive line in run-blocking and the wideouts in pass-blocking. In other words, not great on both, particularly against the run. A few more catches make this a better grade.
Three sacks allowed - plus a hit that knocked Shaw out of the game - and hardly any push for the run. Lot of rotation, which can be viewed in two ways - USC getting lots of guys lots of work, or USC not settled on a starting rotation. I believe the Gamecocks know who their best guys are, which is why they start, but the non-production is starting to make them re-think. Spurrier said that Shawn Elliott isn't satisfied, and I agree. If the Gamecocks can't give their quarterback room to throw or spring a running back against UAB, how are they going to do it against LSU?
Not that Jadeveon Clowney didn't have great games before, but this was the one where his statistics finally reflected it. The Gamecocks got six sacks as a team, with a ridiculous 15 tackles for loss, and Clowney had two and 3.5, respectively. He affected the game, never letting Jonathan Perry get comfortable. Devin Taylor only had three tackles, but two were for loss. The line harassed UAB's running backs into just 27 rushing yards and swarmed all over the Blazers' skill players. No way that's not a top grade.
Lot of adjustment, having to play in space for a throwing team that still ran the ball 42 times, but Shaq Wilson was there for a team-high eight tackles, and was in every lane that UAB picked. Wilson is having a fine senior season, always there, always able to make the stop. Quin Smith also played well, with five tackles and a brutal sack, and the unit as a group helped contribute to UAB's 27-yard rushing total.
Some very sloppy coverages, trying to play contain but also trying to guard the myriad angles of the wide receivers, and early on, the group had some big lapses. D.J. Swearinger played a fantastic game, showcasing his headiness on the fumble-return TD that turned the game around, and Brison Williams should have had an interception but dropped it on the way down (great effort, though). Not the best it could have been, due to Jonathan Perry doing a lot of whatever he wanted, but overall, a solid showing.
That time again - USC's special teams are at best average. The kickers each had their turn at looking miserable, and although it improved afterward, the coverage allowed one massive return. USC is surely hoping it's not a case of getting worse before it gets better.
The only problem I saw was that rather questionable play-calling segment just before halftime, where Lattimore didn't get the ball until after five straight pass plays, the last of which was completed but knocked Shaw out of the game. That didn't seem to be the best option on what to do there. Otherwise, the offense wasn't afraid to chuck it downfield, and it really couldn't afford to be, with the run game bottled up. Defense had a lot of lapses on passing downs, but stood up in the red zone.
OVERALL GRADE: B-