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South Carolina Gamecocks report card: Tennessee edition


COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 19 Tennessee at South Carolina Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I honestly do not believe anything I say here will be able to do justice to what we witnessed last Saturday night, whether you were watching the game at home or were lucky enough to be at Williams-Brice Stadium like I was.

Taking down the No. 5 (at the time) Tennessee Volunteers was without a doubt this program’s biggest win since beating the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens in 2019, but there is a massive difference between these two victories.

The Georgia game was as close to a miracle as they come with the offense only scoring one touchdown, forcing the team to completely ride the defense’s success to victory in addition to draining out the clock. That team also only won four games on the season.

In 2022, there was no, “They got lucky.” South Carolina was the better team on both sides of the ball.

As for the best part? This team isn’t done.

Seven wins will already get this team a respectable bowl game, but eight wins opens the very small possibility of a Citrus Bowl appearance if Ole Miss drops one to Mississippi State this week.

This win was as great of a resumé booster as they come, and even with a loss at Clemson, bowls will be falling over themselves at the shot of being able to land Shane Beamer and company.

On. To. The. Grades.

Offensive Grade: A+++++++++++++++

I’m going to start by saying (and correct me if I’m wrong in the comments) that may have been the best performance by a South Carolina quarterback of all time in addition to being one of the best offensive performances against a respectable Power Five school that I have ever seen.

All that for Spencer Rattler to get awarded Co-Offensive Player of the Week by the SEC? Insanity.

And to address the whole was Satt or was Satt not calling the plays thing, I really believe he was. The staff probably just did its homework and saw — like I did — that you *needed* to pass against Tennessee to find any kind of success.

No read options, no screens, no predictable runs up the middle or forcing Jaheim Bell to play a position he’s frankly not suited to be playing. They had to sling that thing, and sling it they did.

Huge credit to the offensive line as well because a big reason why Rattler was able to pass with that level of success was because he was able to have time in the pocket and did not have to force some unbalanced throw or simply run for his life whenever he dropped back.

But, man. Spencer Rattler really showed some flashes from his Oklahoma days and displayed what we thought we were going to get from him all season, throwing for a whopping 438 yards and SIX touchdowns.

Here’s a video to help you count if you were not able to read that number.

Seeing some electric throws like this sure did make me feel hopeful for what was to come as well, but I would have never expected the offense to put up 63 points.

Even on a day where the pass was highlighted, Jaheim Bell still managed to run for 82 yards as a running back in addition to catching two touchdowns as a receiver.

One of my favorite parts was “Juice” Wells having the kind of game everyone expected Jalin Hyatt to have, catching 11 passes for 177 yards!

In all, this team only punted one time. Other than that (and I’m not counting ends of halves), every drive ended in a touchdown.

I could get used to this.

Defensive Grade: B

I’m not going to panic here because, once again, the offense put up 63, so how much help did they really need?

The defense could have allowed even more than 38 points, and the Cocks still would have won comfortably.

The reason why I’m giving a “B” and not anything worse, though? They were playing one of the best offenses in the country. Allowing 38 points was the expectation.

The Vols put up 63 against Missouri, 44 against Kentucky, 52 against Alabama, 40 against LSU and 38 against Florida. By those standards, USC actually did rather well!

And the scoreboard may not show it, but I did feel like the defense came up with big plays when the team needed them to, like that sack by Tonka Hemingway on 2nd and 18 during Tennessee’s second drive, forcing a Hendon Hooker fumble and stopping all of those potential third down conversions to make the Volunteers punt or settle for a field goal.

So, outside of allowing the occasional big play, I thought the defense played fine.

Special Teams Grade: Incomplete

Usually there is some kind of flashy special teams play or a Beamer Ball sighting, but the opportunities simply weren’t there to do anything meaningful.

The Cocks punted once.

Almost every South Carolina kickoff resulted in a touchback.

Every Volunteer punt was either fair caught, downed by Tennessee or kicked out of bounds.

Nothing happened because nothing could happen.

This day was all about the offense, and that is all okay!

Overall Grade: A+++++++++++

How many other ways can I say South Carolina beat one of the best squads in the country and looked great doing it?

This was a win for the ages and something you will tell your kids about, especially if you saw it in person.

We won’t get many other games like this as a Carolina fan, so all we need to do is cherish it.

And hey, if South Carolina loses to Clemson this week, take it easy on them.