Six Clemson turnovers plus 10 South Carolina third down conversions turned into magic math again for the Gamecocks.
The sum: a school-record fifth-straight win over the Tigers, this one ??? 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.
A crowd of 84,174 sat on the edge of their seats for most of four quarters and erupted when wide receiver Pharoh Cooper threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Wilds with 3:44 left to ice the victory.
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. The Gamecocks have won the turnover battle and converted more third downs in each of their five straight victories. During the course of South Carolina’s winning streak, it has won the turnover battle a combined 15-3.
Shaw, who was honored before the game during Senior Night ceremonies along with defensive end Chaz Sutton, cornerback Jimmy Legree, offensive lineman Ronald Patrick and wide receiver David Wilkins, finished with 152 yards passing and 94 yards rushing and two touchdowns combined.
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.
Sutton and sophomore linebacker Kaiwan Lewis made the plays of the night.
Lewis stripped Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and recovering the fumble at South Carolina’s 30-yard line to stop the Tigers’ last meaningful offensive possession. Lewis then forced a fumble on a punt return that ended the Tigers’ chances.
South Carolina took a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that took six minutes, 14 seconds and was capped by a 2-yard Mike Davis run that put the Gamecocks up with 11:47 left in the game.
The Gamecocks led 17-10 at halftime, but Clemson tied the game at 17-17 with a drive that paid homage to South Carolina’s ball control strategy. The Tigers went 88 yards on 15 plays -- taking a season-long six minutes, 48 seconds to do it – and tied the game on Roderick McDowell’s 4-yard run with 3:01 left in the third quarter.
South Carolina dusted off its Clemson blueprint from the outset. The Tigers took the ball to start the game and moved 46 yards on seven plays before calling a trick play that ended with wide receiver Sammy Watkins throwing an interception to Brison Williams in the end zone.
From there, the Gamecocks methodically marched 80 yards on 17 plays, sucking eight minutes and 13 seconds off the clock and taking a 7-0 lead when Shaw ran 3 yards into the end zone with 4:23 left in the first quarter.
Clemson quickly answered that score after Watkins raced 57 yards to set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Boyd with 2:45 left in the quarter. The Tigers drive covered 75 yards in one minute, 38 seconds.
Clemson forced a punt on South Carolina’s next possession but a muffed punt game South Carolina the ball at the Tigers’ 39-yard line. Five plays later, the Gamecocks led 14-7 on a 9-yard pass from Shaw to Shaq Roland. South Carolina added a 21-yard Elliott Fry field goal on the next drive, capping a 13-play, 65-yard drive to put South Carolina up 17-7 with 8:25 left in the second quarter.
The Tigers pieced together a 10-play, 53-yard drive to end the second quarter with a 38-yard field goal from Chandler Catanzaro to cut the Gamecock lead to 17-10.