Highs in football don’t last long for Gamecock fans.
We were waiting for that inevitable loss, the unavoidable step back after receiving an ounce of respect from public perception, and just that happened against the Missouri Tigers at home last weekend.
Following a stretch of four straight victories (two against SEC opponents), South Carolina dropped a tough one to Missouri by the score of 23-10.
While the defense and special teams (not to mention unforced errors by opponents) were able to bail out the Cocks in recent weeks, they did not get so lucky this time.
The winning was able to distract everyone somewhat from below average offensive game plans and performances in past games, but now those two things are directly under the metaphorical magnifying glass before South Carolina travels to Vanderbilt next weekend.
Let’s hope for some progress there because if there isn’t, a certain someone may lose his job when the season concludes, and that person is not Shane Beamer.
On to a very depressing dishing out of grades.
Offensive Grade: F
When playing Kentucky and Texas A&M, it was very obvious that South Carolina could not score touchdowns or even have lasting drives when starting deep in its own territory.
I’ll give the red zone packages some credit because it feels like when drives get there, the Cocks are able to finish a good portion of the time. The thing is, the red zone is a rare destination for the Gamecock offense when it isn’t spoon fed that kind of field position by a turnover.
Because the defense was not able to make a possession-changing play, the offense was only able to sniff the red zone... once, where the drive was concluded with a Spencer Rattler seven-yard touchdown run.
Although everyone must have come across this by now, the sole touchdown scorer did have a very interesting quote following the game that any offensive coordinator would never want to hear.
“I don’t feel like we had a good idea of knowing what to do,” Rattler said. “I’d say that’s what we need to get better at, just preparing and knowing what to do.”
What is Marcus Satterfield telling these guys? Sometimes you just go out and put up a stinker, but preparation should never be in question (and we all know effort will never be either).
I will give Missouri’s defense credit, though, because before the game, I was talking about how I feared that unit and how they only gave up 26 points to Georgia, which is the most scored against the Tigers in conference play.
I knew if the Gamecocks were to win, it would have had to been a low-scoring affair, but passing for 171 yards, rushing for only 32 yards and dishing out two turnovers (both by Rattler) was not part of my projection.
I’ve been saying this for weeks, but this unit needs to get better if the Cocks want to make any kind of noise later in the season because the defense and special teams are covered.
It’s up to you, Coach Sat.
Defensive Grade: B
The defense was on the field for 2.5 quarters and they only held Missouri to 23 points. They must have been running on fumes by the end of the game!
Like yes, they were unable to force a turnover, but allowing 23 points should always be enough to keep a team in the game. The offense just dropped the ball.
Brady Cook did play better than he usually does, but it’s not like he put on some master class. I’ll take allowing 224 yards through the air (to only one guy too, really) with no touchdowns.
This secondary proved once again that you should not test them.
The unit that should be tested? The run defense, and teams keep doing it again and again and...
The Tigers ran for a combined 166 yards and two touchdowns with Cody Schrader leading the team with 81 yards while contributing one of those scores.
The silver lining? Hey, I’ve seen South Carolina do a whole lot worse than allow 4.3 yards per carry.
My only major critique? Third down defense.
The Tigers opened the game going 6-for-7 on third down, which helped contribute to Missouri’s first 17 points. If the Gamecocks were able to make a few stops, maybe it would have been a quick 13-0 lead or better instead.
You know what happened after those first seven tries, though? Missouri finished the game 2-for-9.
If the defense is able to adjust, why can’t the offense?
In all, I thought the defense played well. Force a turnover or make another stop early and maybe they might have been looking at a B+.
Special Teams Grade: C+
There are really only two positive things to say about this unit.
Mitch Jeter continues to be automatic, making his only kick from 39 yards out and shoutout to the special teams for disrupting that Harrison Mevis missed 21-yard field goal.
There were no other standout events, really.
Kai Kroger had an up-and-down game, punting three inside the 20-yard line but botching two others, leading to the Tigers setting up shop at their own 38-yard line and even South Carolina’s 49-yard line on another occasion.
No Beamer Ball sightings or tide-shifting plays.
I guess they played like a normal special teams unit, to be honest, because we’ve been expecting a higher standard.
Overall Grade: C
Listen, we didn’t witness a complete dumpster fire.
We could have seen a collapse on both sides of the ball in a blowout loss to a terrible team, but in reality, I thought the defense carried over some quality play from weeks past and the offense struggled against a solid defense that probably went in with a great game plan.
Credit the Tigers as you bash the Cocks.
Missouri isn’t some poverty football school. They are a team that has had South Carolina’s number for years now, and while this L may hurt, the sky is not falling.
If the Cocks lose to Vanderbilt, everyone needs to be fired, and if there is something worse than the sky falling, apply that to the situation.
For now, take a deep breath. There are better things to come this season.