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South Carolina vs. Missouri: Game Grades, Analysis for Gamecocks and Tigers

Brian Marron@@brianmarron398Featured ColumnistOctober 3, 2015

Missouri running back Ish Witter, center, runs between South Carolina's Dante Sawyer, right, and T.J. Holloman, left, behind the block of Clayton Echard during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

Missouri picked up its first SEC victory of 2015 after taking down South Carolina at home Saturday afternoon. 

Both teams looked to true freshman quarterbacks to pull out a win. Lorenzo Nunez made his first career conference start for South Carolina, while Drew Lock stepped in for the suspended Maty Mauk. 

Even though South Carolina was the better team in the second half, Missouri made more plays on the opponent’s side of the field and avoided turnovers. Here is a look at how each unit performed for the two squads: 

Missouri Tigers Game Grades
UnitFirst-Half GradeFinal Grade
Pass OffenseAB
Run OffenseB+A-
Pass DefenseC+B+
Run DefenseAA-
Special TeamsBB
CoachingAB+
Bleacher Report

Pass Offense: Lock came out on fire in the first half, throwing two touchdowns while completing 84 percent of his throws. He also displayed some nice arm talent, which is evident by his first score to Nate Brown:

Represent Mizzou @RepresentMizzou

Drew Lock to Nate Brown touchdown! #LOCKTOBER #SCvsMIZZ https://t.co/QUUD63X6St

The passing game became very conservative in the second half and experienced little success. Lock completed only five throws for 28 yards after halftime. As a result, the offense became very stagnant against a weak South Carolina defense. 

Run Offense: A big reason for Lock’s success was the strong running game the Tigers produced Saturday. The team ran for a season-high 163 yards with Ish Witter leading the way with 98 yards and a touchdown. Star running back Russell Hansbrough also contributed 43 yards in limited action due to an ankle injury. If Lock continues to start, Missouri will need to keep up this type of effort on the ground. 

Pass Defense: After allowing Nunez to throw for 141 yards and a touchdown in the first half, the Missouri pass defense stepped up to stall the Gamecock offense. The Tigers picked off Nunez three times in the second half and limited him to only 31 yards through the air. 

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Run Defense: The defensive front was stout Saturday, earning the praise of head coach Gary Pinkel, per Aaron Reiss of the Columbia Missourian:

Aaron Reiss @aaronjreiss

Pinkel: "I couldn't be more pleased with the defensive front."

The attention was well-deserved as South Carolina’s running backs combined to rush for just 45 yards. This forced Nunez to throw the ball more than head coach Steve Spurrier wanted. The final grade would be a solid A, but Nunez finished with 60 yards after some big gashes in the second half. 

Special Teams: Missouri was pretty quiet on special teams Saturday. Andrew Beggett was able to hit his only field goal of the day, a 21-yarder, but that was the only real action for the Tigers’ specialist. Corey Fatony was also solid, as he averaged 36 yards per punt. 

Coaching: Pinkel and his staff put together a great game plan for Lock. They gave him plenty of simple throws while also focusing on the ground game to help take pressure off the freshman. As a result, the offense was very much in-rhythm in the first half. The play-calling became too conservative in the second half, which was reflected in the Tigers’ offensive struggles. 

South Carolina Gamecocks Game Grades
UnitFirst-Half GradeFinal Grade
Pass OffenseB+C
Run OffenseDD+
Pass DefenseC-B-
Run DefenseC+D+
Special TeamsC+C+
CoachingCC
Bleacher Report

Pass Offense: Nunez started out strong, but he really struggled in the second half. A true freshman will make mistakes, but the three interceptions put the game out of reach for South Carolina. He explained the picks after the game, courtesy of GoGamecocks.com’s David Cloninger:

David Cloninger @DCPandC

Nunez' interceptions: "Just made bad reads. Just didn’t put enough on (the one to Cooper). The other two were bad reads by me."

On a positive note, star receiver Pharoh Cooper was able to keep the passing game afloat with 10 catches for 102 yards. 

Run Offense: As illustrated earlier, South Carolina could not get anything substantial going on the ground. David Williams led the running backs with 40 yards, as the team really missed Brandon Wilds in the backfield. Nunez made some plays with his legs and led the team in rushing. In the end, the lack of a serious running game threw off the Gamecocks’ balance and put them in a tough position to score points. 

Pass Defense: South Carolina did a good job of making Lock look good in the first half, as the freshman routinely found open receivers underneath the coverage. The pass defense improved greatly in the second half, as the Gamecocks pressed the Tiger receivers and dared Lock to beat them downfield, which he did not. This unit played a large role in keeping the team in the game down the stretch. 

Run Defense: The downfall of South Carolina’s defense Saturday was the run defense. Missouri’s running backs averaged five yards per carry to lead the Tiger offense. Going up against a true freshman quarterback, South Carolina was unable to put much pressure on Lock because the defense had to stack up against the run. 

Special Teams: Elliott Fry was 1-of-2 on field-goal attempts, but his missed kick near the end of the first half took some momentum from South Carolina, as it was looking to cut the lead to 17-13 heading into halftime. The unit was not too busy in the second half, but punter Sean Kelly averaged 35 yards per boot. 

Coaching: Spurrier did not put Nunez in the best position to be successful Saturday, as the team went away from the run game early and tried to win the game through the air. Nunez also did not run the ball as much as he should have until the second half. Spurrier acknowledged some of his mishaps after the game, per The State’s Josh Kendall:

Josh Kendall @JoshatTheState

Steve Spurrier: "They’re a better team today, better coaches. I don’t think we coached a spectacular game."

Spurrier is always honest, and Saturday was not his best day on the sidelines.

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