Grades are in

LSU needed a win at South Carolina to get back on track and to keep pace in the SEC West, and the Tigers delivered. It wasn't a perfect game by any means, but the Tigers did what they had to do and came up with a big road win.

Being do-or-die time following the loss in Gainesville, the Bayou Bengals responded to the challenge that was set forth. With Alabama holding off Ole Miss earlier in the afternoon, leaving the Crimson Tide undefeated with only a trip to Krispy Kreme country, otherwise known as Phil Fulmer's house, to go before Nick Saban's return trip to Baton Rouge.

Next up for Tigers, however, is Georgia. The Bulldogs, who should pose a much bigger challenge than the Gamecocks, will force the LSU coaches to dig deeper into the playbook than they have so far this season in hopes of earning a win. But, before we close the book on South Carolina and move on to the visiting men from Athens, let's see how LSU graded out on Saturday.

Quarterbacks

Jarrett Lee is a gamer, and as a quarterback that is always a great quality to have.

Lee seems to come up biggest when his back is against the wall, showing resiliency several times on the road so far this season. The redshirt freshman was a perfect 4-of-4 on the game-winning drive, which began on the LSU 17-yard line. The stat line reads just 3-of-3 as the result of a penalty on an illegal shift that negated a 35-yard completion to Brandon LaFell. Regardless, Lee drove the Tigers 83 yards on 11 plays for the win, taking 6:24 off the clock in the process.

Sure, Lee made mistakes. There was the interception that nearly got returned for six, which would have been his second pick six in two weeks time. While he missed some open receivers, Lee remained calm, resulting in what turned out to be another solid outing, finishing 16-26 for 189 and one interception.

Credit also goes to Andrew Hatch for running the offense and providing a spark at offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's beckoning call. The touchdown to Richard Dickson couldn't have been drawn up, or for that matter executed, any better.

Grade: B  

Running Backs

For LSU to win at South Carolina the Tigers were going to have to achieve something they couldn't a week prior … run the football. Although 164 yards on 46 carries is nothing to write home about, it was the timing of the running game that sealed the deal.

In the fourth quarter LSU rushed 17 times for 77 yards, compared to 29 carries for just 87 yards in the previous three frames by the running backs. The rebirth of Keiland Williams was a pleasant site, as Williams carried the ball 15 times for 72 yards. Even more impressive, Williams carried the ball 11 times for 59 yards in the fourth quarter. Add in his four catches for 23 yards and it was his best outing in quite some time.

 

There are still some issues with Williams that he needs to improve on or he will never live up to the billing. Vision and patience seem to have always been his Achilles heel, but the carries have not come for Williams as he has spent a majority of the season playing second fiddle to Charles Scott. Without carries, the intangibles needed to succeed cannot be fully harnessed. Yet, if Williams shows the form he did in Colombia Saturday night, he will be getting more and more looks as SEC play draws on.

One of the new wrinkles the coaches went with was putting Scott at fullback to get him and Williams in the game at the same time, and it worked well for the Tigers as the Gamecocks often were hesitant as to where the ball was going. With Quinn Johnson at fullback there isn't a lot of mystery, but with Scott the package opens itself up for Crowton's play calling.

Grade: B+  

Receivers

A few key drops hindered the Tigers chances to keep drives alive, with LaFell dropping two that would have been good for first downs, as well as Demetrius Byrd losing his grip on what would have been a touchdown.

LaFell and Byrd both came up big in clutch time however, as well as Richard Dickson and Terrence Toliver.

Dickson and Toliver had key catches on the drive that tied the score at 17 late in the third quarter, the only catches either of the two brought in all game.

Dickson had a 17-yarder on 3rd and 7 at midfield that kept the drive alive, later capping things off with the 7-yard touchdown pass from Hatch.

Toliver's only grab was for 13 yards on 3rd and 11 at the USC 34-yard line, which could have turned the game if he had not made the play. Unless Les Miles, in his gunslinger mentality, goes for it, Colt David is looking at a 51-yard field goal. A miss surely would have had Williams-Brice electric heading into the fourth quarter.

The downfield blocking by the receivers, which has struggled in games this season, pleased Miles as well.

Grade: B-

Offensive Line

When your running game averages 3 yards a pop all game, but kicks it up to 4.6 when the game is on the line, credit goes to the big men up front. LSU's offensive line did what it was supposed to do in taking over, especially when the game was on the line.

It struggled with opening up holes early on, looking as lackadaisical as they did in Gainesville. Yet, things turned for the Bayou Bengals as the game wore on. Lee saw great pocket protection for most of the game, allowing the young quarterback a bit of comfort in a hostile SEC road atmosphere. South Carolina's defense had 12 sacks going into the night. They will head into their next matchup, a Nov. 1 game against Tennessee, with that same total.

Grade: B+    

Defensive Line

Another area where the coaches made adjustments was their "Express" package, using four defensive ends up front: Tyson Jackson, Rahim Alem, Tremaine Johnson and Kirston Pittman.

It caused a lot of problems for South Carolina's line, but before we get too excited about this package we need to remember that the Gamecocks weakness on defense lies in the trenches.

Nonetheless, six sacks is a dramatic improvement by a defense that had nine on the season entering the contest.

The guys lost containment on Stephen Garcia a couple of times, but holding the Gamecocks to 39 yards on 31 carries as a team is something coach Miles will take any night. What's even better is when you take out the sacks and lost yardage, the Gamecocks still averaged only 3.5 yards a carry with 88 yards on 25 carries.

Tyson Jackson looked like a first round pick for the first time this season. Now, can he keep that high level of play going?

Holding an offense to 42 yards in the second half and pitching a shutout is something that not many expected to see after last week's meltdown at the swamp.

However, injuries are taking their toll on the defensive tackles. Heading into the Georgia game LSU has three banged defenders: Ricky Jean-Francois, Drake Nevis and Charles Alexander.

Grade: A-

Linebackers

There were still some busted assignments, but you must give Jared Cook his due because he is one of the better tight ends in the country. The linebackers continue making mistakes with the drag routes, and at this point in the season, that should no longer be a problem.

The guys did a good job of filling the holes and their tackling was much better. The defensive line gets some credit for shutting down the USC run game, but the linebackers played a big hand.

Going into the season, the group of Darry Beckwith, Perry Riley and Kelvin Sheppard was thought to be faster and more athletic than some of the groups in the past. While they still may be, the mental side of things continues to be a soft spot for the Tigers defense.

Grade: B+

 

Defensive Backs

Tiger fans have been screaming to see more of Chad Jones, and they got it on Saturday as he played in nickel coverage for a good portion of the night. The coaches used more cover guys in the dime with three corners, but there is still too many breakdowns where opposing offenses are wide open with no defender in sight.

Give Curtis Taylor huge props for answering coach Miles' call and coming up with one of the best games of his career. The secondary forced three turnovers when LSU had only four all season.

South Carolina was 1-of-9 on third down, their only successful attempt coming on the Gamecocks' second drive of the game.

Grade: A-

Special Teams

The punt protection was not stellar, and USC came close to blocking a pair of punts. One punt saw a Gamecock get his hand on the football, but Brady Dalfrey still got enough of it to avoid the block.

Coverage remained solid all the way around, and Josh Jasper was able to record a touchback.

Colt David outperformed the Gamecock's Ryan Succop as he was good on his only attempt, a 48-yard field goal to give LSU an early 3-0 lead.

Grade: B-    


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