Time to try something new.
Giving out game balls is sadly going to be retired for the foreseeable future — for the most part because tossing out rewards after a loss doesn’t feel fitting — and replaced with grades I come up with for each unit after every performance, every week.
With the Gamecocks, there will be good, and there will definitely be bad at times, but I’m looking forward to giving out some critiques... starting now!
Offensive Grade: B
Obviously, it was not a perfect day on this side of the ball, but the positives still outweighed the negatives, in my opinion.
To start, the Gamecocks put up 30 points on a SEC defense, which should be enough to put your team in position to secure a victory on most days.
Spencer Rattler had a mostly successful game, completing 24 of 39 passes for 376 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
We were able to see a massive improvement from Rattler thanks partly to a *slight* improvement in pass blocking by the offensive line. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t have to roll out three out of every four dropbacks, either. Just wanted to document slight progress!
He did miss a wide open Ahmarean Brown in the end zone, though, as the first half was winding down, which led to leaving points on the board.
As for the receivers, Jalen Brooks cooled down a bit, but Antwane Wells, Jr. made up for it, catching eight balls for a whopping 189 yards and a score (watch it below).
Spencer Rattler ➡️ Antwane Wells Jr.— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 10, 2022
62-YARD TD pic.twitter.com/KWKusNS8oz
We also saw a bit of an Oklahoma connection for the first time this year with transfer Austin Stogner having his first meaningful game in garnet and black, bringing in five receptions for 68 yards.
Now it’s time to get critical.
The run game has been dreadful for two games now. Run blocking has been something that has NOT improved over the last week, and I don’t expect it to for the next one either with Georgia coming to town.
Maybe you can contribute some of the struggles to the fact that Lloyd and McDowell weren’t given much of a chance to get things going on the ground with just a combined 13 carries between the both of them, but 58 yards isn’t going to cut it.
At least Lloyd made up for his bad day on the ground by having a good one through the air with six receptions for 72 yards.
Additionally, the Gamecocks turned it over three times with one of them directly contributing to an easy Arkansas score on the other end.
The safety wasn’t too great either.
So, while the South Carolina offense definitely witnessed some success, it also shot itself in the foot on multiple occasions. Too good for a C grade, too bad for an A grade, so a B it is.
Defensive Grade: F
I don’t really know how to talk about this defensive performance in a positive light.
Arkansas running back Raheim Sanders ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns, KJ Jefferson didn’t even have an incompletion until 10:02 left in the second quarter in addition to the all-around fantastic game he had and USC allowed 44 points!
The Razorbacks also didn’t have to punt until the second half, which shows the defense’s ability to stop them.
For the first time since probably last year’s Texas A&M game, the Gamecock defense looked completely lost for a good portion of the game, letting Arkansas do just about anything they wanted to do.
The one positive I can think of on that side of the ball last Saturday was when a Jordan Strachan (who is apparently out for the year with an ACL injury) sack after an offensive holding call took the Razorbacks out of field goal range as the half was winding down.
Hoping for a bounce back game against Georgia, but I think the first real opportunity for that would realistically be against Charlotte at home on September 24.
Special Teams Grade: C
Typically, if you don’t hear anything about special teams during the course of a game, that’s a good thing.
Sometimes — in the case of two blocked punts for touchdowns — hearing something would definitely be a good thing.
Others, like Kai Kroger’s 21-yard punt on South Carolina’s first drive, would not be.
Last Saturday was probably the first time something other than, “Wow! What a fantastic punt!” came out of my mouth when Kroger stepped onto the field.
Other than that, he did his job, but it sometimes only takes one play on special teams to either have a good day or bad day in that department.
Mitch Jeter also made a chip shot 28-yard field goal, but that isn’t really anything noteworthy.
Let’s get back to Beamer Ball, please!
Overall grade: C+
Once again, the offense put the Cocks in position to win with some growing pains here and there, and the defense put the team in position only to lose.
What does that amount to? A mediocre, “C” performance.
There are lots of aspects to improve on, and I wish there was another week to test/fix some things before the Georgia game, but sometimes we just can’t have nice things.