No. 10 South Carolina held No. 6 Clemson’s high-powered offense in check, and the Gamecocks defeated their Palmetto State rivals, 31-17, for the fifth consecutive time before 84,174 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.
The news wasn’t all good for South Carolina. Missouri defeated Texas A&M on Saturday night to clinch the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title. South Carolina needed a Missouri loss to reach the conference championship game in Atlanta; instead, Missouri will face Auburn.
The win gives South Carolina a 10-2 mark, the third consecutive season the Gamecocks have won 10 games or more. Clemson also completed its regular season at 10-2.
South Carolina dominated time of possession, committed no turnovers and converted 10 of 19 third downs.
“It’s amazing when we play these guys the script follows the same thing,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said.
The winning streak against Clemson is the longest in South Carolina’s history, and it came in the first top-10 matchup between the two schools.
The victory also extended South Carolina’s home winning streak to 18, the longest active streak in the nation.
With chants of “U-S-C” and “Game ... Cocks” the raucous crowd enjoyed the outcome, even though it was in doubt well into the fourth quarter. During South Carolina’s win streak, Clemson has not scored more than 17 points and has lost all five games by double digits.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw was sharp on Senior Night, throwing for 152 yards and rushing for 94.
“It’s awesome. I’ve always loved playing at home,” said Shaw, who extended his school record for most wins as starting quarterback to 26. “I’ve always felt comfortable at home. I’m so proud of our guys.”
The loss leaves a gaping hole on the résumé of Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who came into the game holding 57 school records. But he continued his struggles against the Gamecocks.
South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney and his defensive mates pressured Boyd all night, getting five sacks, and they forced him into a fumble and two interceptions in the fourth quarter.
“We knew if we put pressure on him, he gets the jitters and throws crazy balls,” Clowney said. “And that’s what he did.”
South Carolina led 17-10 at the half as Shaw ran for a touchdown and threw for another. Shaw’s run covered three yards, and he connected with Shaq Roland on a 9-yard fade.
The Gamecocks also added a 21-yard field goal by Elliott Fry.
Clemson’s big-play offense was held in check save for Boyd’s 57-yard pass to Sammy Watkins. That set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Boyd. The Tigers added a 38-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro on the final play of the half.
Clemson tied it late in the third quarter on Roderick McDowell’s 4-yard touchdown run. The Gamecocks had stopped Clemson on fourth down, but an offside penalty gave the Tigers a first down, and they capitalized on the break.
South Carolina regained the lead with another lengthy drive, and this one was capped by a 2-yard run by Mike Davis.
That’s when South Carolina put the pressure on Boyd and the Tigers. With Clemson driving for a potential tying score, Chaz Sutton stripped the football from Boyd.
Clemson forced a punt, but return specialist Adam Humphries fumbled and the Gamecocks recovered. Three plays later, Spurrier used some trickery as Pharoh Cooper found Brandon Wilds for a 26-yard touchdown pass.
After the game, Spurrier declared Shaw as the best quarterback in school history.
“Especially coming from Coach Spurrier, he’s very critical, it means the world to me,” Shaw said. “I’m so grateful the way it’s ended.”