“When we play Clemson, they don’t seem to play very well.”
Those were the first words to come out of Steve Spurrier’s mouth at his post-game presser, and, at least recently, they couldn’t be truer. No. 12 South Carolina topped No. 11 Clemson 27-17 tonight in Death Valley, meaning they’re the Palmetto Bowl champs for the fourth straight year, so they get to keep the bragging rights and the Hardee’s trophy. To borrow from a popular meme, “Four for you, Gamecocks! You go, Gamecocks! And none for the Tigers, bye.”
The Tigers got on the board first, when QB Tajh Boyd ran three yards to the house to put CU up 7-0 with about five and a half minutes left in the first quarter. USC responded three and a half minutes later with a touchdown of their own, on a 13-yard pass from Dylan Thompson (who started for the injured Connor Shaw) to Bruuuuuuuuuuce Ellington. 24 seconds later, Clemson took back the lead when Boyd hit DeAndre Hopkins with a 43-yard TD pass.
The second quarter saw only one score, a field goal from the Cocks, to cut the Tigers’ lead to 14-10 less than three minutes before the half. Though they only had a four-point lead, Clemson had clearly been the dominant team in the first two quarters, especially on the offensive side of the ball. That all changed in the second half, though.
Carolina kicked off the third quarter with a 34-yard pass from Thompson to Ace Sanders for another touchdown, giving them a 17-14 lead with just under 12 minutes to go in the quarter. Five minutes later they upped their lead to 20-14 with another field goal, this time from 43 yards out, before the Tigers put up a field goal of their own to pull back within three points.
The Gamecocks managed one more score, a second TD for Ellington, before all was said and done. CU had opportunities to put more points on the board, but their offense stalled multiple times, and they ran only eight plays in the entire third quarter. Boyd also was pressured into tossing a couple of interceptions, including one that was picked by DeVonte Holloman, who has apparently made picking off a Tigers QB an annual affair (he’s done it three times.) That being said, Thompson was picked once, too, when he tried to find Busta Anderson in the end zone.
The MVPs for Carolina were Thompson and Jadeveon Clowney, who set the school record for sacks in a single season with 11, despite nagging foot and knee injuries. Clowney recorded 4.5 sacks tonight alone, a record at Memorial Stadium. After the game, Clowney made it clear that losing to the Tigers isn’t an option:
“I don’t know how it feels to lose to Clemson,” he said. “I’m not gonna know how it feels, either, ’cause we ain’t losing to them as long as I’m here.”
Thompson was no slouch either. In his first start since the ECU game way back in September, he went 23-of-41 for 310 yards, three touchdowns, and the pick. He also had a rushing TD that was called back. Boyd finished the night 11-of-24 for 183 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. He also notched a rushing TD.
Kenny Miles had 16 carries for 45 yards and Sanders had six catches for 119 yards and a touchdown to lead the Cocks. Andre Ellington had 72 yards on 15 carries and Jaron Brown had three receptions for 68 yards to lead the Tigers.
South Carolina had possession of the ball for almost 40 minutes, which certainly played a part in their success. They totaled 26 first downs compared to CU’s 18 and outgained the Tigers in total yardage 444-328.
With the victory, USC has secured their second straight 10-win season, and will look to record their second straight 11-win season with a bowl game victory in a little over a month. The win is also the HBC’s 65th as the Gamecocks’ coach, which is a new school record.
Spurrier’s Twitter ban is apparently over, too, because the players were all tweeting jubilantly tonight. They’re clearly very, very excited, as they should be. Carolina has only beaten Clemson four years in a row one other time, from 1951-1954.
South Carolina finishes the regular season 10-2 overall and 6-2 in the SEC. They’ll almost certainly move back into the BCS Top 10 and will await a bowl game invitation. Clemson finishes the regular season 10-2 and 7-1 in the ACC. They’ll claim part of the ACC Atlantic title, but will not play in the conference championship game. They will also wait for a bowl bid. The loss kills the Tigers shot at going to a BCS game, and the Gamecocks are almost certainly going to be left out of the BCS games as well.