The grades are in from South Carolina’s closer-than-expected, 19-14 win over Florida. Here’s a look at how the Gamecocks did.
OFFENSE – C
The only reason this grade isn’t lower is because Florida’s defense is still one of the best in the country, let alone the SEC. The Gators are second in the SEC with 19 points allowed per game, which is what South Carolina scored Saturday. They’re second in total defense, allowing 288.6 yards per game. South Carolina finished with 377.
So, you can’t call it an awful offensive performance, but it certainly wasn’t good. Steve Spurrier’s play calling was highly questionable. Mike Davis may be the best running back in the SEC, yet many times it seems as if Spurrier forgets Davis is on his team. Davis, who is less than 100 percent healthy, finished with a season-low 13 carries for 54 yards. For the first time this season, Davis was held under 100 yards from scrimmage.
Instead of relying on one of the best players in the country, USC leaned on its passing game. Senior quarterback Connor Shaw is having a fantastic season, but he wasn’t on target Saturday. He finished 14-of-28 passing for 213 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington. It was good enough to win, but far from good enough to flourish.
DEFENSE – B+
Jadeveon Clowney showed up to play Saturday night, and he reminded us again why he’ll be one of the top players taken in the 2014 NFL Draft. Clowney finished with five tackles, including a team-high two for loss. It was a good sign moving forward. USC needs big-time performances from Clowney against Clemson and – if it reaches that far – in Atlanta against the SEC West champion.
Florida’s offense mostly resembled Navy on Saturday night, minus the triple option. The Gators had success on the ground, rushing for 200 yards on 41 carries. They couldn’t sustain it for four quarters. The final numbers were very, very good. USC held Florida to 307 total yards. The Gamecocks were dominated in the opening 20 minutes, but they held the Gators scoreless for the final 40.
So, why no A? For the second straight game, USC allowed a touchdown on the opening series. It’s the fifth time in 10 games that’s happened this fall. Obviously, that needs to not happen against Tajh Boyd and Clemson.
SPECIAL TEAMS – A-
There was a kickoff out of bounds, more bad punts and a missed field goal. Reality is, South Carolina’s special teams are never going to be perfect this season. They’re just not good enough.
But, make no mistake, special teams won this game as much as the defense. More specifically, freshman kicker Elliott Fry can take a bow. He had a lifetime-high four field goals and accounted for 13 of USC’s 19 points. He made kicks from 25, 45, 22 and 43 yards. There could be lots of big games coming up. It’s got to be comforting to know USC has a reliable kicker.
COACHING – B
Spurrier put it best with his opening remarks after Saturday’s game. Somehow or another, it worked out again for the Gamecocks. There are plenty of things to nitpick with this coaching staff. The defense’s inability to start games well is troubling. The offense’s inability to recognize Davis as the best player on this team is mind-numbingly odd. But, that’s all it is – nitpicking. At the end of the day, this coaching staff has reached milestones previously thought to be impossible for this program. Give Spurrier and his staff a lot of credit.
OVERALL – B
Tension is the best way I could describe the atmosphere Saturday night inside Williams-Brice Stadium. There was celebration in the first quarter when everyone learned Auburn beat Georgia. Then, there was a sense of dread, a feeling that USC could find a way to screw this up. There was much more anxiety than anticipated, but USC didn’t screw it up. Sixteen straight home wins. Third straight season with six SEC wins. One Missouri loss from Atlanta, site of the SEC Championship Game. What more could you want?