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South Carolina vs. Wofford report card: Gamecocks handcuff the triple option

After a bumpy start, South Carolina enjoyed a smooth ride against a Terriers team that could have given them fits.

Nov 18, 2017; Columbia, SC, USA; Wofford Terriers quarterback Joe Newman (8) is brought down by South Carolina Gamecocks linebacker Eldridge Thompson (11) in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Passing game: Quarterback Jake Bentley turned in possibly his best and most efficient performance as a Gamecock: He finished 22-of-28 passing for 194 yards and a touchdown, and added two rushing scores. He’s not currently a legitimate dual threat and I don’t know that he ever will be, but he can scramble well enough to keep the defense honest and that’s a great sign for South Carolina. His stats were also hurt quite a bit by several receivers’ drops early in the game, so although the offense had a good day overall (389 total yards, 33 minutes of possession), it got off to a rough start. Bryan Edwards led the receiving corps with eight catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, and he was generally impossible for Wofford to defend. Shi Smith and OrTre Smith turned in 30-yard performances on three and four catches, respectively, and tight ends Jacob August and Hayden Hurst saw the ball as well. In all, South Carolina capitalized on most of its possessions and even found a way to hog the ball, which it needed to do against the Terriers’ clock-killing approach. GRADE: A

Passing defense: As expected for a triple-option team, Wofford didn’t test the Gamecocks much through the air — they were just 5-of-9 passing for 72 yards and two interceptions. Linebacker Skai Moore notched his school record-tying 14th pick, and Rashad Fenton of #FentonIsland fame nabbed the game-sealing interception. There weren’t many opportunities for the secondary to show out, but they still made important and memorable plays. GRADE: A+

Rushing offense: The run game wasn’t a showstopper but it was effective, and most importantly, it was present. A.J. Turner led the Gamecocks with 69 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown, and he surpassed 1,000 yards for the season. Ty’Son Williams saw a lot of work as well, gaining 58 yards on eight carries. (I’d still like to know why he seemingly doesn’t play for entire games at a time, but I suppose that’s a question for running backs coach Bobby Bentley.) Reserve Caleb Kinlaw got to join in the fun as well, breaking off a 27-yard run late in the game that was tantalizingly close to going for a touchdown. This is the kind of balance the Gamecocks need in their offense. GRADE: A

Rushing defense: The triple option is notoriously difficult to prepare for and defend, and South Carolina has found itself in plenty of frighteningly close games against such teams in the past. (And oh yeah, the Gamecocks have even taken a bad loss to one, but we don’t need to relive all that.) This time, however, South Carolina left no doubt about which team was superior: Wofford mustered just 155 rushing yards, nearly 100 yards lower than its season average (250), and only 227 yards of total offense. The Terriers did hit the occasional big play, but again — given the novelty, so to speak, of their offense, it was inevitable the Gamecocks would get fooled on occasion. In addition to the two interceptions, South Carolina also scooped up a fumble, and that opportunistic approach helped keep a lid on the Terriers’ upset bid. This performance came against a top-10 FCS squad that won its conference and will be going to the playoffs, too, so Wofford isn’t quite a traditional cupcake. GRADE: A+

Special teams: Parker White continues to showcase an excellent knack for touchbacks, and he nailed his only field goal attempt (36 yards). Not much else to discuss for this phase of the game, but South Carolina took care of business without any glaring deficiencies on display. GRADE: A

Coaching: I thought this was another well-called game by offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who has been much maligned by fans this season (myself included). The offensive issues earlier in the game were clearly a matter of poor execution, and the clock management/play selection before the first half ended was superb. There’s nothing to complain about on the defensive side of the ball, either — the Gamecocks have played a handful of triple-option teams in recent seasons, and this was by far the best performance they’ve turned in against that offense. GRADE: A+