South Carolina report card: Problems persist, but win heals temporary wounds
South Carolina dominated time of possession (36:19 to 23:41) thanks to a 7-for-13 third-down conversion rate and a steady power running game behind Mike Davis (18 carries, 101 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Brandon Wilds (14 carries, 49 yards). Steve Spurrier said this week that redshirt freshman David Williams would see playing time, but he played minimal snaps and finished with a single attempt for no gain.
Shaky in the first half, quarterback Dylan Thompson settled down and completed 15 of 18 passes after intermission. Thompson’s best throw may have been a lofty toss to Mike Davis on a 19-yard wheel route late in the second quarter. Davis punched it in from 3 yards out on the next play for his second touchdown of the half to give the Gamecocks a 17-13 lead after the PAT.
South Carolina’s offensive line, criticized last week after a dismal outing against Texas A&M, was solid at times but likely not consistent enough for assistant coach Shawn Elliott’s liking. The Gamecocks averaged 4.6 yards per carry behind a veteran-heavy unit and Thompson was not sacked, but there were still issues and a handful plays for no gain.
Junior wideout Shaq Roland caught seven passes for 94 yards after being shutout last week against Texas A&M. Most of Roland’s receptions came at the line of scrimmage and he did the rest.
Though the Gamecocks still lacked the aggression indicative of South Carolina’s respected defenses the last several seasons, an inexperienced group forced two early field goals that were crucial to keeping the Pirates at bay. The front seven, after giving up 6.3 yards per carry to a team whose strength is through the air, wasn’t much of a factor outside of Sharrod Golightly’s third-quarter interception. Finding a reliable pass rusher remains a priority.
One of three new starters on defense, T.J. Gurley intercepted a pass out of the hands of elite receiver Justin Hardy and recorded six tackles, one fewer than linebacker Skai Moore’s team-best seven stops.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
Shon Carson had a couple of nice kickoff returns and defensive tackle Gerald Dixon blocked a field late in the second quarter, but Saturday night’s biggest star on special teams was kicker Elliott Fry who nailed all four field goal tries.
Spurrier stuck to his word down the stretch and pounded the football 12 out of 18 plays on the Gamecocks’ game-clinching drive in the fourth quarter. South Carolina didn’t panic after an early 6-0 deficit and made it a point to get Davis a healthy number of total touches (21). Ward kept his defense primarily in a 4-3 look and the unit forced their first two turnovers of the season.
Despite giving up 27 first downs and 453 total yards, it could’ve been worse for the Gamecocks who won at home for the 19th time in their last 20 games. Relatively healthy heading into next week’s game against Georgia, South Carolina didn’t show much offensively against a non-conference team that failed to win the battle up front.