Grading the Gamecocks after a 24-13 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday to drop Carolina to 2-3 on the season:
Passing Game: C-
The only reason this isn’t a D is because of the nice job Perry Orth did in relief of Brandon McIlwain (11-18, 138 yards). While McIlwain provides the greater upside and skillset, Orth has the experience and the ability to make plays - which, while he looked good, doesn’t make him an elite quarterback by any stretch of the imagination. Still, I liked what I saw for Orth and wasn’t impressed by B-Mac. Some of that is the playcalling, but some of it is the lack of awareness on the freshman’s part. When your punter has more passing yards than your quarterback for a good part of the game, something’s wrong.
Passing Defense: B-
All things considered, the passing defense kept things pretty well handled throughout the game, with their longest play allowed being a 33-yarder to Jeremy Tabuyo in the first. A&M was expected to go more toward the run with some key threats missing - more on that later - but for the most part, as Muschamp said, the secondary, namely the corners, were decent, but not great. Christian Kirk was effective, but didn’t hurt the Gamecocks too badly.
Running Game: C
The maddening decision to continue to force Brandon McIlwain into the Aggies’ defensive front means that the Gamecocks take a hit in this area. If he were given more of a pocket by the o-line, though, he would have had a much more productive day. I’m still impressed by Rico Dowdle’s debut - I think we saw yesterday why the staff didn’t redshirt him despite injuries. A.J. Turner got the game off to an electric start on a 75-yard TD run (which raises the grade), but only managed 38 yards after that and had a long of eight yards the rest of the way.
Run Defense: C
Take away Trayveon Williams’ 49-yard run and the Aggies would have finished with 167 yards on the ground. Still, though, they let Knight make too many plays with his feet as he ended the day with 84 yards on 12 carries. Not their best performance, but certainly could have been much better in this area.
Special Teams: D-
Rashad Fenton nearly muffed one, but then Jamarcus King did cough one up late to snuff out what could have been an opportunity for the Gamecocks to tie it (granted, the offense has been inefficient, and they'd have to convert a 2-point conversion if they did get six, but they at least would have had a shot). Elliott Fry uncharacteristically missed two field goals. Sean Kelly’s perfect fake punt conversion and a decent day for the coverage team keep this out of F territory.
I’m giving this a C because the defense did well and because of the fake punt call that caught A&M flatfooted, coupled with the pass completion by Hayden Hurst after accepting a jet sweep handoff. Offensively as a whole? That's a completely different story. When McIlwain is constantly getting stuffed at the line or behind the line, even though he’s a rushing QB, it's time to get him making plays with his arm (i.e. looking downfield) to force the A&M defense to adjust. Orth came in and kept it in the air, and the offense looked more efficient as a result. As Ryan pointed out in the Student Section piece, the QB discussion can be beaten to death, so spending a lot of time on it won't help. The decision to punt in A&M territory toward the end of the 1st half was frustrating and drops this grade down.