South Carolina coach Will Muschamp pledged to bring a championship program to Columbia. On Saturday night, Clemson provided a helpful measuring stick by showing what one looks like.
The gap is startling.
The No. 4 Tigers thrashed South Carolina 56-7 in front of 81,542 joyous fans in Memorial Stadium. Clemson piled up 622 yards and 41 first downs while amassing its second-highest point total and second-highest margin of victory in this series’ history.
“Not a whole lot to say,” Muschamp said. “We got beat by a better football team. Disappointing, but give them credit. On the road recruiting tomorrow. That’s the way we will change our program. That’s what we need to do, go recruit.”
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That was clear from kickoff. Clemson led 21-0 after the first quarter, 35-0 at halftime and 42-0 after the opening possession of the second half. Asked if his team would try to flush the memory of this game as soon as possible, Muschamp said no.
“We will sit on this for a while,” he said.
While Clemson junior quarterback Deshaun Watson racked up the 99th, 100th, 101st, 102nd, 103rd and 104th touchdowns of his collegiate career, South Carolina freshman quarterback Jake Bentley looked like a freshman. Bentley was benched after the first half because of discomfort in his knee.
“He had a hard time pushing off of it,” Muschamp said. “He’s fine. There’s no structural damage. He wanted to go back in the game, but I didn’t feel good putting him back in the game.”
While he was in the game, Bentley threw for 41 yards on 7 of 17 passing and was thoroughly overwhelmed by the Tigers. He had plenty of company in garnet and black in that regard. While Clemson had 21 players touch the ball, South Carolina struggled to find anyone who could make a play offensively.
The Gamecocks leading offensive player ended up being reserve running back Rod Talley, who had 50 yards on six carries, all of which came on the final drive of the game against the Tigers reserves. Deebo Samuel caught four passes for 14 yards. Rico Dowdle had five carries for 30 yards.
The Gamecocks didn’t get into Clemson territory for the game’s first 28 minutes and had three first downs in the first half. Their 218 total yards were their fewest since being held to 201 last year against Florida.
Clemson pulled Watson in the third quarter, but called back-to-back timeouts late in the fourth quarter to get him and several starters back on the field briefly in order to receive a final ovation from the Memorial Stadium crowd. Muschamp didn’t want to talk about that after the game.
“It is what it is,” he said.
The rebuilding Gamecocks might be ahead of schedule in gaining bowl eligibility in Muschamp’s first season, but they are distinctly behind their in-state rival in overall program health.
“There wasn’t a whole lot working tonight,” Muschamp said. “Got beat by a better team … this year.”
He doesn’t believe that will be the case long, but Saturday night proved he’s going to have to make up a lot of ground.