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South Carolina at Georgia report card: Gamecocks outmanned by Bulldogs

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South Carolina hung around, but just isn’t talented enough to pull an upset of that magnitude.

At least we don’t have to see Nick Chubb in a Georgia uniform again.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Passing game: While quarterback Jake Bentley struggled at times with the accuracy issues that have plagued him for much of the season, he still put together a solid performance. Bentley finished 21-of-35 passing for 227 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions (although both came at the end of each half). Hayden Hurst finally got involved again in a big way, leading the Gamecocks with seven receptions for 93 yards in what was a sight for sore eyes. Bryan Edwards showed up as well, hauling in seven catches for 63 yards and making a tough grab for a touchdown. OrTre Smith (3 catches, 36 yards) and Shi Smith (2 catches, 28 yards) rounded out the effort for South Carolina. Bentley was well-protected by the line, and overall, the passing game was one of the few things that clicked for the Gamecocks. GRADE: B+

Passing defense: Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm apparently wanted to make it known that he can, in fact, throw the football. While he wasn’t slinging it all over the field with abandon, Fromm finished an efficient and effective 16-of-22 passing for 196 yards and two touchdowns, and took care of the ball as well with no interceptions. Georgia used short and intermediate routes to gobble the Gamecocks up, and with their elite running game, the Bulldogs were able to mix in play-action to great effect. I don’t think this was necessarily a bad performance from the secondary, because it didn’t yield many big plays, but it was just another example of how a more talented team can prey on the Gamecocks’ lack of depth and inexperience. GRADE: C-

Rushing offense: The ground game is once again AWOL. A.J. Turner was the Gamecocks’ leading rusher with 35 yards on eight carries, and South Carolina racked up the princely total of 43 rushing yards. Mon Denson and Ty’Son Williams got their chances, too, but only gained nine and eight yards, respectively, on a few carries each. Georgia has an excellent defense with a fearsome linebacking corps, but this has been a recurring issue throughout the season. With the offensive line now fully healthy, you’d like to see some improvement. That said, I’ll avoid giving the run game a failing grade based on the talent disparity involved. GRADE: D

Rushing defense: Here’s where it gets predictably ugly, because this is what happens when you play a team with a never-ending rotation of elite running backs. Nick Chubb (20 carries, 102 yards) and Sony Michel (16 carries, 81 yards, and a touchdown) combined to once again gash the Gamecocks, as both backs averaged 5.1 yards per carry. D’Andre Swift got involved as well with five carries for 22 yards, and Fromm even showed off some mobility on a couple nice scrambles. As a team, the Bulldogs racked up 242 yards on the ground. The Gamecocks yielded only one rushing score, but otherwise were largely powerless against UGA’s running game. Even when South Carolina defenders made it into the backfield or met Georgia’s backs at the point of attack, they just couldn’t make the tackle and finish the play. GRADE: D

Special teams: Parker White missed yet another 47-yard field goal, but bounced back with a 25-yarder later in the game. Joseph Charlton punted three times for an average of 40 yards and a long of 45, which is below his usual standard. Caleb Kinlaw was alert enough to pounce on Georgia’s bizarre onside kick to open the game, which gave South Carolina great field position. Other than that, there’s not a lot to say about special teams this week — opportunities to make something happen on returns or elsewhere just didn’t exist. GRADE: C+

Coaching: The Gamecocks’ tendency to get conservative really hamstrung their chances at an upset, because playing not to lose when you’re already behind is not a recipe for success. South Carolina opted to punt on a couple key fourth downs, one of which was in plus territory, and sent White out for that 47-yard field goal attempt, which is a questionable gamble. The staff also showed a mind-numbing lack of clock management skills on the final possession of the first half, which was another missed opportunity for the Gamecocks, as Georgia got the ball back to start the third quarter. Oh, and that’s another thing --- the staff continues to elect to receive opening kickoffs, which is absolutely maddening when you don’t have a threat at kick return anymore, the offense usually struggles early, and you’re on the road against the No. 1 team. I will say offensive coordinator Kurt Roper did a pretty good job exploiting the Georgia secondary, which is one of the Bulldogs’ few weaknesses. But overall, this was really uninspiring game management, which was in stark contrast to the heart the players displayed. GRADE: C-

Intangibles: Going with another bonus category this week just to give some props to the effort and hustle the Gamecocks showed on Saturday. I’m not one to claim moral victories, but I’ve been so used to seeing South Carolina teams collapse and give up that it’s hard not to be at least somewhat impressed with the fight this group brought to Athens. That goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter showed a kind of determination we haven’t seen around here in a while. GRADE: A