Grading the Gamecocks after a 27-14 loss to Mississippi State in Starkville...
Passing Game: C-/D+
Two touchdowns by Brandon McIlwain keep this out of D- territory. The freshman was responsible for some badly overthrown balls and had a fundamental breakdown early in the second half, where he was chased out of the pocket and ran out of bounds instead of throwing it away. Hayden Hurst looked good. Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards were non-factors most of the evening. Perry Orth had several bad reads in the first half. Offensive line left him hanging out to dry on a few plays.
Passing Defense: C-
Not a terrible showing, but D.J. Smith having an interception in the end zone taken out of his hands by his receiver tells you what you need to know. The truth is, the passing game didn’t need to be on point this evening with the game that Nick Fitzgerald had. More on that later.
Running Game: D
A.J. Turner had a great performance last week, but disappeared on Saturday thanks to a lack of push by the offensive line. McIlwain had a couple of good runs, but nothing impressive. Need to see much better from the running game. Fortunately, Turner’s just a freshman and has a long road ahead of him.
Run Defense: F
An inexperienced quarterback has a career day against the Gamecocks’ defense - but not through the air, but on the ground. Not even Dak Prescott, or any other State quarterback, for that matter, was able to pick up as many yards (195) as Fitzgerald did in this one. Reminder: this was a player that was benched last week against South Alabama. And the missed tackles...
Special Teams: B-
Elliott Fry had a 55-yard miss after making one from that distance last week, but what can you do? Sean Kelly was busy all evening. Return team did OK. Coverage unit wasn’t perfect, but didn’t give up any big-time returns.
Dan Mullen had his players ready to go out of the gate. The same can’t be said for the Gamecocks, who failed to match the intensity that Mississippi State brought to the field. Will Muschamp wanted a “angry”, “desperate” football team this week. Turns out, the only team that looked “angry” and “desperate” was the one that was coming off a loss to a Sun Belt team. (I mentioned this in the game thread last night, but who’d have thought that Muschamp would be the calmest coach on either sideline?)