Report Card: USC-Wisconsin

dcloninger@thestate.comJanuary 3, 2014 

Junior wide receiver Shaq Roland is looking to become a go-to target for quarterback Dylan Thompson.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s last game and assigns a grade. Go to the head of the class if the grades you assigned the Gamecocks match his.

NO. 8 SOUTH CAROLINA 34, NO. 19 WISCONSIN 24

Quarterback
Not surprising that one of the most successful and most beloved players in program history went out with a monumental performance. Connor Shaw accounted for all of South Carolina’s five touchdowns, throwing three, running one and catching one. He only missed on three passes, kept Wisconsin’s defense off-balance with his ability to run and fired pinpoint spirals to his receivers. A top grade and a top career – USC won’t see the likes of him again.
GRADE: A+

Running back
USC barely looked at the running game, having no confidence at being able to run between the tackles. Mike Davis had some carries late as USC was running clock, but only had 49 yards on nine attempts. Brandon Wilds only carried three times, and fumbled once. After Steve Spurrier complained about not running the ball worth a crap over the past few games, the Gamecocks didn’t try to break out of the trend. Not that they needed to, but there was little production from the group.
GRADE: C

Wide receiver
My, did Bruce Ellington and Shaq Roland show up in Orlando. Each caught six passes, and each dented the SportsCenter Top 10 plays. Ellington certainly showed NFL scouts something in his last collegiate game, tipping one overthrown ball to himself and adjusting to catch one behind him, while Roland went up through double coverage to catch a pass while falling backward. Nick Jones had three catches after one early drop, and even Shamier Jeffery got his hands on one bail-out pass.
GRADE: A+

Tight end
Jerell Adams had his best game of the season, catching three passes for 17 yards and a touchdown. Rory “Busta” Anderson was barely on the field from what I could see, but with Adams there, he wasn’t really needed.
GRADE: A

Offensive line
The Gamecocks abandoned the running game early and after allowing some early pressure on Shaw, re-adjusted. The second half featured much better protection of the quarterback.
GRADE: B+

Defensive line
The scheme was to keep playing a four-man front, and that’s not the players’ decision. To my eye, it didn’t make a lot of sense to keep doing that against a team that was loading a massive offensive line on every snap and running the ball, and USC’s linemen certainly looked like they didn’t understand the thought, either. While the Gamecocks made some big plays – Jadeveon Clowney deflected two passes, one of which ended up intercepted – most of the day was spent chasing after Wisconsin running backs. There wasn’t a lot of adjustment to try and start moving offensive linemen in other directions.
GRADE: C

Linebackers
The linebackers, charged with filling gaps in the defensive line, got better as the game went on but still had a pretty bad game in that regard. Yet, they made some big-time plays. Kaiwan Lewis had an interception and a fumble recovery while leading the team in tackles, and Skai Moore picked off two passes. That made up for a lot of missed assignments in the run defense.
GRADE: B

Defensive backs
Wisconsin didn’t throw a lot, so the DBs were mainly charged with helping out against the run. There were some missed tackles, but overall, a pretty solid game. Sharrod Golightly had a huge play by stopping Melvin Gordon on fourth-and-1, and Victor Hampton knocked out quarterback Joel Stave to put the inexperienced Curt Phillips in the game. That ended up being a huge moment, since Phillips was forced to try and get quick points that ended up being turnovers.
GRADE: B

Special teams
Ugly. Just ugly. A kickoff returned for a touchdown, no punting game to speak of and a botched PAT. I can’t think of a redeeming play to pull this into at least a respectable grade.
GRADE: F

OVERALL GRADE: B

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