Grading the Keys to Victory: S.C. State
I. Stay Focused
While Blake Mitchell and the offense came out and delivered an interception on their first drive, the defense held strong and gave up only a field goal. Those were the only points they surrendered on the night, as Coach Tyrone Nix's unit swarmed to the ball and tackled well throughout the contest, forcing four turnovers of their own. After a lackluster effort in week one, the defense has shown why they were so highly praised by the coaching staff in the pre-season
Luckily for the offense, Mike Davis (102 yards on 16 carries) and Cory Boyd (132 yards on 11 carries) showed up and were the bright spots on a unit that struggled to produce any type of downfield passing threat and also surrendered six turnovers. There is no way to know how much a lack of focus contributed to this, but it likely was a factor.
Grade: C (only because of the stellar defense)
II. Play Assignment-Football
As already mentioned, the defense played well and contained the Bulldogs, holding them to only 264 total yards. For the most part, they played their assignments well and tackled much better against the SCSU offense than against Louisiana-Lafayette's similar offensive attack. If the defense continues to play this well, it would keep South Carolina in games until the offense can come into its own.
III. Continue to Improve on the Offensive Line
The offensive line had an odd day, as they did not pass protect well, but had a very good showing in run blocking. The first half was littered with miscues in the passing game, and the offensive line, combined with the struggles at wide receiver, played a big part in the offense surrendering two sacks and multiple hurries. This was unfortunate, as Spurrier entered the game hoping to develop some type of downfield passing game and to give the young receivers a chance to make plays.
The South Carolina coaches went to the ground game in the second half, and the line looked like a completely different group, allowing Boyd to rush for 12 yards a carry in a dominating effort. For most of the second half, they were able to blow the SCSU defensive line off the ball, which was encouraging in some ways, but added to the frustration of the poor pass blocking performance in the first half. The line is still looking to find the right combination of starters and will need to get more consistent.
IV. Make Special Teams Special Again
Captain Munnerlyn had a 29-yard return, and Ryan Succop was his usual self, connecting on his only field goal attempt and averaging 41.5 yards a punt. On the other hand, Munnerlyn's longest return of the year was negated by penalty and Kenny McKinley fumbled a punt he fortunately recovered. The kickoff coverage team also failed to get down field and make tackles, leaving fans holding their collective breath on each kickoff. The Gamecocks' special teams still need to improve for this team to have a shot at competing for the SEC title.
V. Put Them Away if the Opportunity Arises
While South Carolina didn't completely dominate SCSU in the first half, USC answered the Bulldogs' first score and the game was never in doubt. In the second half, when Spurrier shifted focus to the running game, the Gamecocks finally pounded S.C. State into submission.
The Gamecocks get points for the game never being in doubt, but lost any shot at an 'A' with a terrible passing performance in the first half.
Extra Credit: Get the Young Receivers Reps
Jason Barnes, Mark Barnes, and Dion Lecorn all got playing time, with the Barnes boys getting their first career receptions, including M. Barnes getting his first touchdown. J. Barnes showed an ability to adjust to the ball in the air on a nice 34-yard catch. Lecorn seeing action came as a surprise, as most believed he would redshirt. While he seemed to block well downfield, it would have been nice to see him get some balls thrown his way. All three likely would have gotten more opportunities if not for the poor passing game in the first half. It would also have been nice to get Chris Culliver some snaps, but he was resting a sore ankle.
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