South Carolina (6-5) fell 56-35 to No. 2 Clemson (12-0) on Saturday in Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. Here are five things we learned from the game:
Bryan McClendon is making himself a hot commodity
The Gamecocks’ first-year offensive coordinator earned himself some attention on Saturday night and will start popping up on smaller school head coaching candidate lists sooner rather than later after South Carolina gained 600 yards against the nation’s second-ranked defense. It was the 11th-most yards the Gamecocks have ever gained and the second-most they have gained in this rivalry. Last week, South Carolina had 602 yards against Chattanooga, making this the second season in school history that the Gamecocks have had 600 or more yards in two games. (The first team to do it was Steve Taneyhill’s 1995 South Carolina team.) South Carolina has had more than 500 yards of offense five times this season.
‘Next man up’ is a great slogan but a bad way to live
South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp and his players are conditioned to say “next man up” every time another defender gets injured, but that only works for so long. The Gamecocks’ battered defense had almost no chance against the Tigers without Bryson Allen-Williams, D.J. Wonnum, Aaron Sterling, Jaycee Horn, etc. Clemson gained 744 yards, the only team ever to top 700 against the Gamecocks. There’s little reason to expect it to get any better in the final two games of the season, against Akron this week and in the bowl game.
Jake Bentley put his big game blues to rest
That’s tough to do in a 21-point loss, but throwing for five touchdowns and one interception on the road against the No. 2 team in the country is tough, too. The Gamecocks’ junior quarterback threw for a career-high 510 yards (on a career-high 50 attempts). He needed to be almost perfect to give South Carolina a chance against the Tigers, and he almost was. Bentley is now 1-10 against ranked teams, but he (and his fans) now have the faith he can change that statistic next season.
Deebo Samuel made the most of his opportunity
After a quiet season, South Carolina’s senior wide receiver needed a big game in a big game to get himself back in the front of the mind of NFL talent evaluators. He got it. Samuel had 10 catches for a career-high 210 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown catch, and three total touchdowns. He also had catches for 44 and 32 yards, showing off the same explosiveness he flashed at the start of 2017.
College football is just different now
The Gamecocks and Tigers combined for 1,344 yards, a record for the rivalry. South Carolina averaged 8 yards per play. Clemson averaged 8.1. It was the fourth straight game in which the Gamecocks and their opponent have combined for more than 900 yards. Part of that is the state of the South Carolina defense, but part of it is the evolution of college football. Offensive coordinators are a step ahead of defensive coordinators at the moment and rules regarding player safety have only amplified that advantage. Expect more yards from everyone in the future.