Final grades

South Carolina gets graded in the classroom and on the football field. The feature returns for its second season as we take a look at each aspect of the game. Tonight we look at the results of the season-opening 17-13 win over Vanderbilt. Who made the grade and who didn't?

Quarterbacks

Very few people saw this coming. We knew Dylan Thompson was a good passer and East Carolina's pass defense is horrendous, but no one could have expected that performance to happen. Making the first start of his career Thompson completed 21-of-37 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns. ECU was bound and determined to make Thompson beat them, and he did it over and over again. He displayed great touch on the short and intermediate routes, but did underthrow some of the deep balls. He was sacked three times and by his own admission made a "dumb" mistake on his fumble, but that did little to diminish a super performance.

Final grade – A+

Running backs


As mentioned above, ECU was not going to let Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles beat them. Despite remaining in their base 3-4 defense most of the afternoon, the Pirates routinely had seven or eight players in the box. That is why Marcus Lattimore had his fifth-lowest rush total in his Carolina career with 40 yards, but did score the game's opening touchdown.

Though the focus on Lattimore hurt his numbers, Carolina did rush for 131 yards as a team. Miles had 30 yards and Thompson had 17 yards. The running backs gladly sacrificed themselves for the better of the team.

Final grade – B

Wide receivers


The receivers received plenty of blame for the lack of a passing attack in last week's game. They rebounded well this week. Eight of the eleven players to catch a pass were receivers and they recorded 281 yards and three touchdowns. They were getting open and Thompson was finding them. D.L. Moore had his first multi-touchdown game, DeAngelo Smith caught his first touchdown pass, and K.J. Brent and Shaq Roland got their first catches of their Gamecock career.

Final grade – A

Tight ends


After just one catch in last week's game and being a virtual no-show, the tight ends showed up Saturday. Only Rory Anderson caught a pass, but he had four of them for a team-high 90 yards and two touchdowns. Jerell Adams got himself open several times but Thompson could not find him. Much better performance out of the tight end position.

Final grade – A-

Offensive line


Again, there wasn't much running going on, but that wasn't from a lack of blocking. It's hard for five guys to block seven or eight guys. Still, they were able to open up some holes. The tackle combination of Cody Gibson and Mike Matulis were superb and A.J. Cann, T.J. Johnson and Ronald Patrick were great as well. Steve Spurrier even credited Corey Robinson with a good game. More importantly, they provided Thompson with plenty of time to throw. Spurrier mentioned after the game that the ball was in the air more than it ever has since he's been at Carolina, and that was because the offensive line gave Thompson time.

Final grade – A+

Defensive line


As everyone thought would be the case, the defensive line was not able to get the ECU quarterbacks down on the ground. They only got one sack, but they were in the face of Rio Johnson and Shane Carden all game long. Jadeveon Clowney was credited with two quarterback hurries, but there were many other times when the quarterbacks were forced to hurry throws. There was also very little running room for the running backs.

Final grade – A

Linebackers


For the second straight week Shaq Wilson picked off a pass, and Wilson and Demario Jeffery each had quarterback hurries. Quin Smith tied Jimmy Legree and T.J. Gurley for a team-high five tackles and Jeffery had three.

Final grade – A

Secondary


The secondary faced the biggest challenge of anyone on the team. ECU provides a challenge on any secondary with their passing game. The secondary had Johnson confused all afternoon, intercepting three passes on the game. Legree had his first interception and ran it for his first touchdown and Brison Williams also recorded his first interception. Legree also broke up two passes on great reads on the quarterback. ECU did throw for 333 yards, but most of those were in garbage times when the younger Carolina players were on the field.

Final grade – A

Special teams


Landon Ard did record two touchbacks, but it was on eight attempts. However, he did kick several to the end zone that were returned, and several times the returner didn't make it past the 20. It was a night and day difference from last week.

Tyler Hull did great punting the ball, even recording a 51-yard punt. He didn't have to punt the ball much, but averaged 40 yards on his four punts and allowed the returners nothing on returns.

Both of ECU's kickoffs were touchbacks, but Ace Sanders did get to return two punts. He didn't score as he did last year, but did have a 28-yard return and 12-yard return.

Final grade - A


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