CLEMSON — South Carolina’s offense did what Clemson’s offense refused to do, and several streaks were cut short in Death Valley as South Carolina picked up a win in the rivalry with a thrilling 31-30 win over No. 8 Clemson.
Clemson’s 40-game home winning streak? Broken. The seven-game winning streak in the rivalry? Faded away. Clemson’s chances in the College Football Playoff? Wasted with another dismal effort from Clemson’s offense.
In short, Clemson was outmatched and dragged down with everything at stake.
Spencer Rattler threw for 355 yards on 24 of 38 passes, and Gamecock’s defense stifled Clemson’s offense for most of the second half. Clemson Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei was a miserable 8 of 29 for 99 yards. Clemson rushed for 237 yards, with Will Shipley gaining 132 yards on 15 carries.
The Tigers had one last chance to win the game after a South Carolina punt, but the comeback Antonio Williams fumbled the ball on the return and the Gamecocks may have missed time.
The Tigers got off to a quick start, thanks to the defense. The teams traded punts to start the game and on South Carolina’s second possession, Spencer Rattler backed up on first down and threw a seam pass which was intercepted by Jeremiah Trotter. Trotter ran for 35 yards untouched for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
After another South Carolina punt, Clemson took over at his own 10 and Shipley had 15-yard and 10-yard gains to get the Tigers out of the hole. Shipley then took 47 yards from South Carolina’s 13 and two plays later Uiagalelei scored from nine yards and Clemson held a 14-0 lead with 5:52 left in the first quarter.
A short punt and short pitch got South Carolina on the board early in the second quarter, with Rattler hitting Antwane Wells deep in the end zone for a 4-yard pass.
Clemson’s offense stalled, but a 52-yard punt by Aidan Swanson pinned the Gamecocks to their two. In the first game, Ruke Orhorhoro flushed Rattler who tossed the ball with no receiver in sight. It was called a safety and Clemson led 16-7.
What followed allowed South Carolina to score. The short kick-off was lined out by Shipley, who ran into a group of his own players and handed the ball to Phil Mafa. Mafah tried to hit the sideline but evaded it to the Gamecocks, who scored four plays later on a four-yard run. South Carolina was back, trailing 16-14 at 8:24 of the second quarter.
After the ensuing kickoff, Uiagalelei hit Fine Collins for a 59-yard pass to the Gamecock 15. Three plays later, Uiagalelei hit Antonio Williams in the corner of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown. At 6:14, Clemson was leading 23-14.
South Carolina converted on a 4-and-1 at its own 34 with Rattler hitting a wide open JuJu McDowell for 59 yards, putting the ball on Clemson’s yard line. However, Clemson’s defense stiffened and Rattler was intercepted by RJ Mickens in the end zone to stop the player.
Clemson led 23-14 at intermission.
The Tigers put up an ineffective three-and-out to start the second half, and a short punt (38 yards) was returned 37 yards by Ahmarean Brown at Clemson 26. Four plays later, Jaheim Bell bullied his way to the dirt and it was 23-21 in the top of the third.
The teams traded punts, but Kai Kroeger’s 61-yarder was returned 23 yards by Antonio Williams to South Carolina’s 47. . Shipley appeared to be stopped at six but carried a Gamecock defender and ran through another on his way to the score, and with 4:35 remaining in the third Clemson led 30-21.
It took the Gamecocks exactly two plays for the Gamecocks to respond, with Rattler hitting a wide-open Antwane Wells for an easy 72-yard pitch-and-catch, making it 30-28 with 3:45 left in the third quarter .
Clemson’s offense failed to gain ground again, and the Gamecocks put together a drive that ended early in the fourth quarter with a 35-yard field goal. For the first time since the first quarter of the 2018 game (7-0), the Gamecocks held a lead in the rivalry game at 31-30.
Clemson’s offense remained mired in funk, but the defense continued to hold, forcing a South Carolina punt with just over two minutes remaining. Antonio Williams lined the ball up and turned upfield but fumbled it, handing the ball to the Gamecocks at the Clemson 45.
The Tigers will face North Carolina (9-3 overall, 6-2 in the ACC) next Saturday in Charlotte in the ACC Championship game. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. (ABC) at Bank of America Stadium.
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