Grading the Gamecocks after a 20-15 win against East Carolina in their home opener
Passing Game: B-
Brandon McIlwain didn’t light the world on fire in his first career start (16-28, 195 yards) but was very serviceable on Saturday and played mistake-free football. Bryan Edwards had a nice bounce-back game after a no-show against Mississippi State. It was good to see Dreak Davis get in and see some positive plays. K.C. Crosby continues to be a key part of the receiving game.
Passing Defense: C/C-
While the passing defense gave up 400 yards through the air (with nearly half of those recorded by Zay Jones), the longest play they allowed was just 28 yards. That fact, along with Chris Lammons and Jamarcus King’s two end-zone picks, added to the D’s four sacks and Philip Nelson’s lost fumble, bring this up out of failing territory.
Running Game: B
McIlwain showed us what he’s capable of with his two TD runs in the first quarter. Great to see David Williams put up some good numbers, including a big 25-yarder to slam the door. A.J. Turner had a rough time of it out of the backfield. Offensive line was a little better in opening up holes, but need to sustain that throughout the entire game.
Run Defense: B
Great performance by the men up front to limit the running attack, which the Pirates didn’t really need since they were doing well through the air. ECU’s longest run was for 16 yards, and while the Gamecocks were giving up chunks of seven to eight yards at times to give their opponents manageable situations, they limited the damage. Chris Lammons, Taylor Stallworth, D.J. Wonnum and Bryson Allen-Williams stood out for me at various points in the game.
Special Teams: A-
About as good as it gets. Fry was perfect from 37 and 39 and nailed both PATs. Sean Kelly shanked one, but that was the only mistake he made all day as he landed two punts inside the 20. A.J. Turner nearly brought the opening kickoff to the house and showed electrifying ability as a return man. Coverage team had a quiet day and limited what returns the Pirates did attempt.
At the end of the day, a win’s a win, and Muschamp and his staff were able to hold it together to get the Gamecocks’ record to 2-1. However, it wasn’t a perfect game by any stretch. One play call that sticks out was the decision in the 2nd quarter to go for it on 4th and a long 1. Instead of going for something like a draw play in hopes that the offensive line would get just enough push to get the first (with a mobile quarterback, mind you), Kurt Roper called for a fake handoff to his running back, only to have McIlwain get stuffed for no gain - with McIlwain lined up 3-4 yards behind the line of scrimmage. That, and a failure to get things going offensively outside of the quick start in the 1st quarter and the 500+ yards of offense allowed, bring the grade down. However, as Muschamp pointed out, the team did limit big plays and came up with some significant stops to seal the win.