What once was rare is now routine.
South Carolina, already down its star tailback, was without starting quarterback Connor Shaw on Saturday night, but it didn’t matter. The No. 13 Gamecocks still extended their win streak over No. 12 Clemson to four straight with a 27-17 victory in front of 82,000 frustrated fans in Memorial Stadium.
“I don’t know how it feels to lose to Clemson,” said sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who had 4.5 sacks and set the school’s single-season record with 13. “I’m not going to know how it feels either because we’re not going to lose to them while I’m here.”
Sophomore quarterback Dylan Thompson was thrust into action by Shaw’s injured foot and responded with 310 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on 23-of-41 passing. He added 38 yards rushing, including 20 yards on a third-and-19 quarterback draw that set up the Gamecocks’ decisive score.
“When I first found out I was starting this game, I put the full focus on God,” Thompson said. “That was my encouragement this week. The way it worked out is nothing but God, I honestly believe that. It’s so fun to not have any pressure and just come in and have fun playing the game that you love.”
Thompson received a text from friend and teammate Marcus Lattimore, the junior tailback who was lost for the season due to a knee injury suffered in the Tennessee game, before the game. It read: “Remember who you play for. Ball out.”
Thompson led an offense that outgained Clemson’s more ballyhooed unit 444 to 328. The Gamecocks had 12 penalties but converted 11 of 21 third downs (and their only fourth down) to hold onto the ball for 39:58 of the game’s 60 minutes.
“Offensively, we sort of did what we needed to do in terms of being ugly and running for nothing and nothing and nothing, but we kept that clock churning away,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “We hit a ball or two here or there. We had a lot of mistakes in the game, but fortunately our defense was very good in the second half.”
South Carolina held Clemson to its second-lowest total of the season, but it was Thompson who was the difference in the game, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
“We couldn’t disrupt him,” Swinney said. “He threw the ball incredibly well. He was the difference in the game.”
While Spurrier became South Carolina’s all-time winningest coach with the victory (No. 65), Swinney fell to 1-4 against the Gamecocks.
“I just want to apologize to our fan base, to our seniors, to everyone,” he said. “I really appreciate the environment that these fans have created these past few seasons. This loss really hurts.”
It marks the second time the Gamecocks have won four straight in this 110-game rivalry.
“We were very fortunate again,” Spurrier said. “It seems like when we play Clemson, they don’t play very well.”
The Tigers, who had the ball fewer than seven minutes in the second half, still lead the overall series 65-41-4.
“History doesn’t have anything to do with anybody who is here now,” senior spur DeVonte Holloman said. “We are trying to start our own history. We wanted to come in and start our own tradition here.”
Clemson: Boyd 3 run (Catanzaro kick), 5:27.
USC: Ellington 13 pass from Thompson (Yates kick), 1:46.
Clemson: Hopkins 43 pass from Boyd (Catanzaro kick), 1:22.
USC: FG Yates 29, 2:40.
USC: Sanders 34 pass from Thompson (Yates kick), 11:48.
USC: FG Yates 43, 6:56.
Clemson: FG Catanzaro 37, 5:07.
USC: Ellington 6 pass from Thompson (Yates kick), 4:17.
|Time of Possession||39:58||20:02|
South Carolina, Miles 16-45, M.Davis 12-43, Thompson 14-38, Ellington 2-5, Sanders 1-3.
Clemson, Ellington 15-72, McDowell 3-47, Boyd 17-26.
South Carolina, Thompson 23-41-1-310. Clemson, Boyd 11-24-2-183.
South Carolina, Ellington 7-72, Sanders 6-119, Jones 4-45, Miles 3-39, Cunningham 2-26, M.Davis 1-9.
Clemson, S.Watkins 4-37, Ja.Brown 3-68, Ford 2-13, Hopkins 1-43, Humphries 1-22.