Joined The Augusta Chronicle in 1996 after spending nine years at The Aiken Standard. Served as copy editor, South Carolina bureau chief and Metro Editor before being named Sports Editor in April 2000.
Posted September 11, 2011 02:23 pm

Grading the Gamecocks: Week 2

South Carolina has to feel pretty good about its team after Saturday's wild win at Georgia. At 2-0 and up to No. 11 in the national polls, the Gamecocks are poised to do some big things.

That doesn't mean they are perfect. Far from it, in fact. Coach Steve Spurrier admitted as much after the game, and said "we were fortunate to win." With two defensive scores and a special teams touchdown, the Gamecocks outlasted a decent Georgia team 45-42. Here's how they graded out:

OFFENSE: Stephen Garcia played the entire game at quarterback, and I was starting to wonder in the first half if maybe I was wrong about Connor Shaw. Garcia consistently overthrew his receivers, but he finally got on track and threw a nice touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery. Marcus Lattimore didn't look like he was having a great game until late, but it added up to 176 yards and a touchdown. Jeffery had his usual solid effort, catching five balls for 85 yards and making a nice grab on a fourth-down conversion. The bottom line, though, is Garcia and the passing game need to improve. For the second consecutive week, the passing game was flat. Look for improvement in that area in the next few weeks. GRADE: C+

DEFENSE: Let's face it, Melvin Ingram and Co. were the stars of Saturday's win. Ingram was named national defensive player of the week for his efforts, which included a fake punt return for a touchdown and a fumble he returned for another touchdown. Stephon Gilmore played a decent game, and he returned a fumble to set up a Garcia score. Antonio Allen picked off a pass and returned it for another touchdown. The key, though, was the Gamecocks holding Georgia to three field goal tries in the first half. The Bulldogs only made two, and that proved to be huge. Without those early stops, South Carolina could have easily trailed by a couple of touchdowns at the half. The secondary gave up four passing touchdowns by Aaron Murray, so that group needs to improve. GRADE: A-

SPECIAL TEAMS: Who are these guys? This might be South Carolina's best special teams unit ever. Jay Wooten hasn't missed a kick all year, and he booted a 49-yard effort through the uprights to give South Carolina the lead. Joey Scribner-Howard got off some booming punts, including a 59-yard effort, and nailed three of his six punts inside the 20. New special teams coordinator John Butler shined with his fake punt call late in the second quarter. Ingram went 68 yards for the touchdown, and gave South Carolina its first big momentum shift. Brandon Boykin threatened to break several kickoff returns for scores, but overall this unit performed extremely well. GRADE: A+

COACHING: A better effort than the first week, but still some fans were left scratching their heads. Why force Garcia to throw when Lattimore was picking up yards? Why didn't Jadeveon Clowney start? He seems like a guy you'd want on the field at all times. Spurrier, though, pulled the trigger at the right times. The fake punt was vintage Spurrier. If anything, his record of 14-5 now against Georgia is worth something. He gets in the Bulldogs' heads. GRADE: B

OVERALL: When's the last time South Carolina was a consensus pick to beat Georgia in Athens? That's right, never. South Carolina had the bull's eye on its chest, but it took Georgia's best shot and still came away the winner. That tells me this team could be special. Navy is next up, and yes we all know what happened in 1984. Navy's triple-option will probably give the Gamecocks fits, but this could be the game where Clowney, Ingram and the line wreak havoc. The secondary shouldn't be tested too much through the air, but needs to do a better job of tackling. On offense, Lattimore, Jeffery and Garcia should have solid efforts. As Spurrier said, South Carolina should have better athletes than Navy, but that doesn't always translate into a win. The defense has given up nearly 40 points per game through two weeks. This would be a good week to reverse that trend. GRADE: B+