Six Clemson turnovers plus 10 South Carolina third down conversions turned into magic math once again for the Gamecocks.
The sum: a school-record fifth-straight win over the Tigers, this one 31-17 to earn the Gamecocks their 18th straight home win and send senior quarterback Connor Shaw out with a perfect 17-0 record in Williams-Brice Stadium.
“Amazingly, when we play these guys from Clemson the script follows the same thing,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “It was a wonderful win for us. We are happy. They are a good team that continues not playing well when they play us for some reason.”
A crowd of 84,174 sat on the edge of its collective seat for most of four quarters and then erupted when wide receiver Pharoh Cooper threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Wilds with 3:44 left to ice the victory.
“We put that one in this week,” Spurrier said. “That was the last chance to use it so I went ahead and fired it in there. Pharoh threw a terrific pass. That kid is a ballplayer.”
South Carolina, which did not commit any turnovers, has now posted three straight seasons with double-digit wins for the first time in school history.
“Pretty neat to go 10-2 with this team. I am really proud of this team,” Spurrier said. “All of the teams I have had, these guys might have achieved the most for such a young bunch of guys. They have really played well this year. Give them credit.”
The night’s only disappointment came after South Carolina had finished its game as Missouri finished off a 28-21 win over Texas A&M that denied the Gamecocks the SEC East title and a spot in the conference championship game.
“We really can’t control that,” defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said. “Coming into this game we were just looking forward to beating our in-state rival, which we did. We just have to keep pushing and get ready for the bowl game.”
The Gamecocks have won the turnover battle and converted more third downs than the Tigers in each of their five straight victories. During the course of the winning streak, South Carolina has gained 15 turnovers and given up three.
“That’s no turnovers in the last four home games,” Spurrier pointed out.
Shaw finished with 152 yards passing and 94 yards rushing and two touchdowns combined.
“Connor Shaw, best quarterback in school history,” Spurrier said. “He was probably the difference maker completely for us tonight.”
Shaw’s ability to pick up first downs with his legs made up for the Gamecocks’ inability to run the ball in any other fashion. The rest of the Gamecocks rushed for 47 yards combined.
“We couldn’t find a running play but the quarterback draw,” Spurrier said. “If you can’t block them, try to let them rush past you.” Shaw briefly choked up during his postgame news conference while speaking about his perfect home record and hearing that Spurrier called him the school’s best quarterback ever.
“Especially coming from Coach Spurrier because he is very critical,” Shaw said. “It means the world to me. I am so grateful for the way it has ended.”
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd did not end his night on such a happy note. Boyd threw for 225 yards but committed four turnovers, three interceptions and a critical fumble.
“Every year we talk about the same thing,” said Clowney, who had one sack to go along with Kelcy Qualres’ 2.5. “When we watch them play other teams, nobody is getting a lot of pressure. We know if we hit him a few times, he starts getting the jitters back there and starts throwing crazy balls. That’s what he did.”
Senior defensive end Chaz Sutton and sophomore linebacker Kaiwan Lewis made the decisive defensive plays of the night. Sutton stripped Boyd and recovering the fumble at South Carolina’s 30-yard line to stop the Tigers’ last meaningful offensive possession, and Lewis then forced a fumble on a punt return that ended the Tigers’ chances.
“Our guys play well here at Williams-Brice,” Spurrier said. “It was neat. We know we are sort of blessed. We are not that great a team, but the guys hang in there and keep on playing and somebody makes a play.”
USC: Shaw 3 run (Fry kick), 4:23.
Clemson: Boyd 8 run (Catanzaro kick), 2:45.
USC: Roland 9 pass from Shaw (Fry kick), 14:54.
USC: FG Fry 21, 8:25.
Clemson: FG Catanzaro 38, :00.
Clemson: McDowell 4 run (Catanzaro kick), 3:01.
USC: Davis 2 run (Fry kick), 11:47.
USC: Wilds 26 pass from P.Cooper (Fry kick), 3:44.
|Time of Possession||21:51||38:09|
RUSHING: Clemson, McDowell 14-111, Boyd 15-16. South Carolina, Shaw 22-94, Davis 15-22, P.Cooper 4-18, Ellington 1-7, Wilds 3-3, Carson 2-2, Team 3-(minus 6).
PASSING: Clemson, Boyd 19-27-2-225, S.Watkins 0-1-1-0. South Carolina, Shaw 14-26-0-152, P.Cooper 1-2-0-26.
RECEIVING: Clemson, S.Watkins 7-93, Humphries 5-45, McDowell 2-31, Seckinger 2-25, Bryant 1-18, M.Williams 1-9, Cooper 1-4. South Carolina, Ellington 4-51, Roland 3-40, Byrd 3-26, Wilds 2-36, Davis 2-10, McLaurin 1-15.