Stephen Garcia had a phenomenal game. The redshirt junior threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns, completing 17-of-20 passes with 1 fluke interception. Garcia made all the throws and the corner route to Alshon Jeffery was a thing of beauty. If Garcia's performance was good enough earn him the Walter Camp Award for Offensive Player of the Week, it's good enough for me.
Grade - A+
Marcus Lattimore came up just 7 net yards shy of becoming the first running back in nearly 40 games to break the 100-yard mark against the Tide. Still, with Lattimore's 93 rushing yards and two touchdowns (to go with 16 receiving yards and a touchdown) along with Brain Maddox's 28 net yards on just five carries, the Gamecock running backs did their job. On the game-clinching 15-play, 82-yard drive Lattimore and Maddox combined for 43 yards and Lattimore hammered the final nail into the coffin with his 1-yard plunge up the middle.
Grade - A
Alshon Jeffery continues to be a human highlight reel every week. The SEC leader in both receptions and receiving yards put on a show against the Tide. For the second consecutive game, Jeffery had two touchdowns to go along with his 127 yards. The longest was a 45-yard remarkable one-handed catch that Jeffery himself doesn't know how he caught. Tori Gurley continues to be a viable #2 man with 31 yards on three catches. The Gamecocks also found a way to get freshman speedster Ace Sanders more touches. Sanders had three catches for 20 yards. No other receiver had a catch in the game, but when you have #1 lining up who else do you need? Potential Heisman candidate?
Grade - A
This has been the most scrutinized, analyzed, questioned unit on the team. After a weak performance on the Plains, coach Shawn Elliott and his line received some harsh remarks from Spurrier. How'd they respond? By completely dominating one of the best defensive lines in the nation. If I had any game balls, I'd give each one of them one because they did an outstanding job. The Gamecocks rushed for 110 yards and only gave up one sack when Hutch Eckerson was beat around the corner. They also did something that Spurrier thought he'd never seen before - even in his days at Florida. Twice in the second half with the game still in limbo, the Gamecocks ran it right down Alabama's throat on the goal line to extend the lead. To quote our good friend Lee Corso; that deserves a big time YO!
Grade - A+
The Gamecock defensive line seemed to spend more time in the Alabama backfield than Bama running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. The Gamecocks tied a season-high with seven sacks. Considering the other was against Furman, you can understand the magnitude of the way the line played Saturday. The defense now has 19 sacks on the season, tying LSU for first in one less game than the Tigers have played. The line was responsible for 2.5 of those sacks, three quarterback hurries, and a Travian Robertson fumble recovery. They also did a great job of hemming up Ingram and Richardson in the backfield, allowing only a combined 64 net yards and ZERO touchdowns. Not many teams will be able to say that at the end of the year.
Grade - A
Just days after finding out that their leader, Shaq Wilson, was out for the season, the linebackers responded in a great way. They disguised their blitzes and stunts extremely well and had McElroy shaking his head. The linebackers had 18 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and Antonio Allen delivered the crushing blow that caused the McElroy fumble. They also deserve a lot of credit for helping the D-line shut down the Bama running game.
Grade - A
If there was any unit at all that you could say had the worst day of the entire team, it would probably be the secondary. McElroy did have a career-high 315 passing yards and two touchdowns, but I'd be willing to bet the farm that he's rarely thrown the ball 34 times. There was only one blown coverage that led to the second Bama touchdown, and a mismatch of C.C. Whitlock on Julio Jones for the other touchdown. Other than that the secondary played well. They did a great job of tackling and did not give up many yards after contact. That was a stark contrast to what happened the last time they were on the field.
Grade - A-
The special teams played well. Lanning made all five of his extra point attempts and averaged 41 yards on his two punts with a long of 49. Stephon Gilmore had a 15-yard punt return and Chris Culliver had 70 yards on three kick returns with a long of 37. The kick-off team was the weak spot, as the kickers failed to get a touchback in seven kicks and the coverage team allowed both Marquis Maze and Richardson to have 31-yard returns. Still, there were no back-breaking mistakes on the special teams that often times can spoil an upset bid.
Grade - A
What can I say about the coaching? Tremendous game plans by both Spurrier and Johnson. Johnson received a lot of criticism for a poor defensive effort against Auburn. He and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward vowed to change some things to get the defense back to what it's been since they've been at Carolina. It worked. The Gamecocks disguised their blitzes well and Bama never saw them coming.
Spurrier also received a little criticism for pulling Garcia, but credit him for sticking with Garcia as the starter and it paid off in a big way. He did an excellent job of exploiting mismatches, particularly with Jeffery.
They both came up with great game plans that they knew would work and knew the players could execute. They were right.
Grade - A+
How could you really give anything less? I honestly tried to find some negatives and there really weren't any. There were some mistakes made - as there are every game - but there just wasn't a whole lot of game-changing negatives that could affect a grade. The Gamecocks only trailed for 3:12 and never let Bama get within a touchdown. When they got a chance to go for the knockout blow after the defense held the Bama offense on a fake field goal, they did so with a 10-play, 74-yard drive that ate up 4:34 seconds off the clock. That's what good teams do when they get the chance to close a game out. The final 5 minutes on the field was electric.
Grade - A+
Earning the Grade: Alabama
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