It wasn’t 56-7, but it wasn’t much better for South Carolina.
A year after getting beaten by 49 points by archrival Clemson and promising themselves that wouldn’t happen again, the Gamecocks fell 34-10 to the No. 4 Tigers on Saturday night in front of a sellout Williams-Brice Stadium crowd of 82,908.
Clemson improved to 11-1 overall and will face No. 2 Miami next Saturday in the ACC Championship Game with the hope of winning their second consecutive conference title and clinching a berth in the CFB Playoff. South Carolina fell to 8-4 on the season and will wait to learn its bowl destination. Bowl bids will be announced on Dec. 3.
It was the fourth consecutive win for the Tigers in this series.
“I’m extremely disappointed with tonight,” USC coach Will Muschamp said. “We’ve got to handle it better, and we didn’t. We lost our cool at times in some situations. I told them in any situation, whether it was a defeat or a victory, you’ve got to learn from those situations, and you need to move forward and we need to learn from this.”
South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley struggled for the second consecutive year against the Tigers defense. On Saturday, he finished 16 of 29 for 126 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, making him 23 of 46 for 167 yards, three interceptions and one touchdown in two appearances against Clemson.
None of the other Gamecocks fared much better. Clemson’s defense, ranked third in the nation in points allowed coming into the game, held South Carolina to 207 yards. Meanwhile, the Tigers gained 467 yards and let their second- and third-string quarterbacks play in the fourth quarter. Clemson’s yardage total was the second highest of the season surrendered by South Carolina and most since N.C. State gained 504 yards in the season opener.
South Carolina trailed 20-0 after a first half in which it was outgained 226 to 99. Clemson got the first score of the game when Ryan Carter intercepted a Bentley pass and returned it 12 yards for a score. Carter barely moved on the play, on which either Bentley or intended wide receiver Bryan Edwards made the wrong decision, letting the pass go directly to the Clemson defender.
After that, the Tigers added to their lead with two long scoring drives, a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 1-yard Tavien Feaster scoring run with 8:12 left in the second quarter and a 10-play, 79-yard drive that ended on a 4-yard scoring pass from Kelly Bryant to Hunter Renfrow with 1:50 left in the second quarter. Clemson missed the extra point on the last touchdown, leaving the score 20-0 at the break.
“We all know how important this game is and it’s great to be state champs – that’s for sure,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “South Carolina is a good football team, they’ve had a heck of a year. Much, much improved. Will has done a great job, and we knew it was going to be a hard fought game but I’m really proud of our guys for showing up and being ready.”
Star of the game: Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant finished 23 of 34 passing for 272 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed 10 times for 26 yards before being replaced by Johnson in the fourth quarter.
Play of the game: Clemson junior wide receiver Hunter Renfrow ended any realistic chance South Carolina had of mounting a comeback when he caught a short pass on the first play of the third quarter and wound his way through the Gamecocks defense en route to a 61-yard touchdown that put the Tigers ahead 27-0.
Stat of the game: The Gamecocks did not run a play in Tigers territory until the fourth quarter, when a Keisean Nixon interception gave South Carolina possession at the Tigers 22-yard line. The Gamecocks got a 40-yard Parker White field goal on that drive, which totaled minus-1 yard.
Piling Up Penalties: South Carolina was flagged for nine penalties for 76 yards. In the first 42 minutes of the game, the Gamecocks had surrendered more penalty yards than they had gained in either the passing (49 yards) or running game (69 yards).
Hunter Renfrow Show: Renfrow entered the game with one touchdown catch this season. He had two against the Gamecocks with scoring catches of 4 and 61 yards. It was the third two touchdown-game of Renfrow’s career. The other two came against Alabama in the national championship games the past two seasons.
Shi Smith out: South Carolina freshman wide receiver Shi Smith seemed on schedule to play during the week, but it became clear in warm-ups that Smith would not be available as he remained in sweatpants while his teammates dressed out and warmed up. Smith started seven games as the slot receiver this season and had 26 catches for 350 yards and two touchdowns. Coach Will Muschamp said during the week that he hoped Smith would be able to play because his speed had to be respected by defensive players. Randrecous Davis, who came into the game with three catches, started in Smith’s place. Starting running back A.J. Turner left the game after two carries on the first drive and did not return.
NEXT FOR SOUTH CAROLINA
What: Bowl Game