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South Carolina Gamecocks report card: Texas A&M edition

What units contributed most to this statement win? Let’s discuss.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Texas A&M at South Carolina Photo by Charles Brock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Two weeks ago South Carolina ended its 10-year winless streak in Lexington with a victory over Kentucky in Lexington. Two weeks later, the Gamecocks continued to take care of business.

For the first time ever, USC has downed the Texas A&M Aggies, winning by the score of 30-24. No matter the year the Aggies may be having, this will always be an accomplishment in my mind.

While that is true, I also do not believe the Cocks played a perfect game.

I’ll even go as far as saying if this game was played at College Station, the result may have been completely different.

Due to the rowdy crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Aggie offense committed EIGHT false start penalties.

It’s no secret that their offense was struggling all night, but that amount of five-yard penalties will undoubtedly create more difficult situations, helping the Gamecocks out a bit.

Talk about a home field advantage!

To give a preview of what’s to come, the defense and special teams came to play Saturday. I’ll get to the offense in a second.

Grades time!

Offensive Grade: C

You know how in grade school most models viewed a “C” grade as average, “B” as above average and an “A” grade as superior or outstanding? I believe how the Gamecock offense performed fully encapsulated the energy of what a “C” grade means.

It did what was required, and nothing more.

Up until the final scoring drive, the only times South Carolina put points on the board was when the offense operated on a short field.

They had to settle for a field goal (!!!) after starting from the Texas A&M five-yard line on the first drive, they scored a touchdown after starting at the Aggie 11-yard line on the second drive and then scored after starting at their own 49-yard line following a short punt midway through the third.

The only successful drive of the day kicked off with 8:21 to play in the fourth quarter at the USC 20-yard line and concluded with a touchdown run by Marshawn Lloyd with 3:08 remaining.

The Gamecocks were finally able to put together a scoring drive longer than 51 yards right when they needed to.

What concerns me, though, is if you erase that kickoff return to begin the game, the Gamecocks might not win this one.

The offense was simply good enough, not good.

Lloyd once again showed out with 92 rushing yards while adding on two scores and I thought the offensive line performed VERY well, but the pass game continued to be underwhelming.

Not all of the blame should fall on Spencer Rattler’s shoulders because you all saw Brooks drop that dime in the end zone and Jaheim Bell drop a routine out route right on the hands (during the same drive nonetheless), but completing less than 50% of your passes won’t cut it.

Fumbling the ball in your own territory won’t help your case either.

The Cocks got lucky, and if they want to continue this string of success, someone other than Lloyd needs to make some plays.

Defensive Grade: B+

This unit won the game for South Carolina.

The reason the Cocks jumped out to a 17-0 lead five minutes into the game? Darius Rush’s pick and the fumble recovery on whatever that play call was during Texas A&M’s second drive.

Starting off two defensive possessions with two turnovers is what every defensive coordinator dreams of, and it helped set the tone early.

Additionally, the Gamecocks continued its dominating pass defense.

After last Saturday, South Carolina has now held the opposing quarterback below 200 passing yards in six of its seven games this season.

Haynes King and Conner Weigman, who came on in relief due to a King injury, combined to complete 53% of their passes, and the one throwing touchdown they had came on a drive that started at the USC 24-yard line... so I’ll allow it.

Part of the reason for the quarterback struggles? Nine combined quarterback hurries, with Zaach Pickens leading the team with three!

The thing that has plagued this defense all year was its run defense, and I saw a massive improvement in that area as well.

Aggie running back Devon Achane did run for 99 yards, but it took him 20 carries, and if you ignore his one 30-yard carry in the second quarter, that number looks even better!

In all, tackling was improved, run defense was improved and pass defense stayed dominant.

If you want a video to sum up this unit’s performance last Saturday, here it is.

Special Teams Grade: A+++++

This. This is the reason.

Xavier Legette’s 100-yard kickoff return was South Carolina’s first since Deebo Samuel was donning the garnet and black.

I can also make the assumption that this play directly contributed to a solid majority of the false starts called on Texas A&M due to it setting the energy in the stadium.

As for more positives, Kai Kroeger had three punts inside the 20-yard line with two of them falling inside the five-yard line.

Mitch Jeter also converted his one and only field goal attempt, a chip shot from 23 yards away.

Let’s not let two pointless plays (a blocked extra point and allowing an onside kick recovery) distract us from what was a fantastic display of Beamer Ball in Columbia.

Overall Grade: B+

This team did not fold where past South Carolina teams have.

The Gamecocks took their win over Kentucky and said, “That’s not enough, we want more.”

Two bad streaks are gone after two games, and this squad is now one win away from being bowl eligible.

Let’s not forget this win was enough to get the Cocks ranked in the AP poll at 25!

Prior to this two-game stretch, Missouri was looked at as the “winnable” game of the three, so here’s to hoping South Carolina does not sleepwalk into matchup number eight.