Sunday grade card: South Carolina
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Each Sunday, PowerMizzou.com will hand out a position-by-position grade card for Missouri from Saturday's game. Here are the marks from the Tigers’ 34-14 win over South Carolina.
Quarterback: Kelly Bryant did not have his most accurate game passing the ball, especially in the first half. Bryant missed several open receivers when throwing downfield, and the interception he threw that set up South Carolina's first touchdown was either a terrible read, a terribly inaccurate throw or both. However, he made up for the misses by using his legs more than we've seen so far this season. Bryant finished the game with 17 rushes for 77 yards. For a stretch during the first half, his carries were the only thing working for Missouri's offense. Bryant eventually settled in and completed 19 of 33 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Missouri will probably need Bryant to be a bit more precise down the road, but on a day when the Tiger defense dominated like it did, he certainly did enough. GRADE: B
Running backs: Missouri's running backs struggled to find room to run, as evidenced by the fact that Bryant led the team in rushing for most of the game. Tyler Badie also lost a fumble in the first half, and while it didn't ultimately cost Missouri, that's not the type of mistake fans want to see repeated. However, Badie made up for it with an impressive catch and run on a screen pass that went for a 21-yard touchdown in the third quarter. And in typical Larry Rountree III fashion, the junior got better as the game went on, allowing Missouri to run time off the clock in the second half. Like Bryant, the backs could have been better and did make one bad mistake, but part of their struggles has to be attributed to the offensive line, and they were solid when it mattered. GRADE: B
Wide receivers: As mentioned above, Bryant didn't exactly put all of his throws on his receivers' numbers, but the wideouts didn't help him out in the first half. Dominic Gicinto and Johnathon Johnson both dropped passes that would have easily been first downs. Johnson wound up making a few nice plays, though, and Jonathan Nance had another impressive showing, finishing with four catches for 60 yards. Only three wideouts caught passes at all, with Jalen Knox only catching one pass. The team will likely try to get more pass-catchers involved in the game plan moving forward. GRADE: C
Tight Ends: Albert Okwuegbunam found the end zone yet again, catching his fourth touchdown in the past three games. The future NFL Draft pick contributed in more than just the red zone, too, catching three total passes for 19 yards. He made one impressive play on a third down when he caught a pass over the middle, absorbed contact, stayed on his feet and ran for first down yardage. Daniel Parker Jr. contributed in the receiving game as well. Parker caught a career-high four passes for 46 yards. GRADE: A
Offensive line: The line looked a bit disjointed early facing South Carolina's stout defensive front without veteran starter Yasir Durant. The group struggled to create much room in the running game and Bryant had to scramble for his life on a few early pass attempts. But the group settled in as the game went on and was better in the second half. Missouri ended up rushing for 194 yards. The number of holding penalties is a concern, but considering the group played 87 snaps with little or no substitution, we won't kill them for it yet. GRADE: B-
Defensive line: Are we sure this is the same unit that Missouri put on the field against Wyoming? For the third game in a row, Missouri absolutely dominated an opposing offensive line at the point of attack. The Tigers held South Carolina to 16 rushing yards. The Tigers also had four sacks (three by defensive linemen) and another three quarterback hits. Tre Williams hurried South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski on Ronnell Perkins' 100-yard interception return touchdown, and let's not forget the Chris Turner deflection that led to Missouri's bizarre opening touchdown. What looked like the team's biggest weakness after the season-opener has become an absolute strength. GRADE: A
Linebackers: Another week, another linebacker finding the end zone. This week's score was a bit less traditional than the interception returns Nick Bolton and Cale Garrett had last week, but Garrett absolutely deserves credit for his heads-up play. When everyone else on the field stopped, Garrett dove on the ball in the end zone, and he ended up getting rewarded with a touchdown. Even aside from that play, Garrett and Bolton played well. Garrett finished with six tackles and Bolton with five, as well as a pass break-up. As usual, both played nearly every snap. GRADE: A
Secondary: Like the defensive line, the Missouri safeties could not have looked much worse in the season-opener. Tyree Gillespie, Josh Bledsoe, Khalil Oliver and Ronnell Perkins were dynamic Saturday. Gillespie nearly single-handedly kept South Carolina from taking advantage of Badie's fumble in the second quarter, sacking Ryan Hilinski on second down and then breaking up a pass in the end zone on third. Bledsoe finished with five tackles and a pass break up. And Perkins had the biggest play of the game when Hilinski's pass hit him right in the stomach and he returned it 100 yards to the other end zone. The cornerbacks were most solid as well, though Hilinski didn't exactly test them with many accurate throws to the wide receivers. GRADE: A
Special Teams: A healthy Richaud Floyd continues to be a difference-maker for Missouri's punt return unit. After ranking second-to-last nationally in that category a year ago, Missouri is suddenly in the top 10. One of Floyd's returns set up a touchdown, and the other set up a drive that reached the South Carolina one-yard line but ended in a turnover on downs. Aside from one Tucker McCann missed field goal, the Tigers were solid in all other special teams phases. McCann didn't allow the Gamecocks to return a kickoff or punt in the game. GRADE: A-
Coaching: The monkey is finally off Barry Odom's back. Odom and his staff had the defense ready to play and the team cut down on penalties after averaging 9.5 per game the past two contests. Most importantly, in a refreshing twist, when confronted with some adversity, the Tigers responded well. You could perhaps nitpick the play-calling near the goal line in the first quarter, but other than that, Missouri looked like the more talented an the better coached team Saturday. GRADE: A
Final Overall Grade: A