COLUMBIA — It all felt very familiar.
South Carolina didnt do anything fancy. Nothing special here Saturday night.
The Gamecocks simply executed grind-it-out, power football and once again, Clemson didnt have an answer.
No. 10 South Carolina exerted its will on the No. 6 Tigers, taking a 31-17 win before 84,171 at Williams-Brice Stadium. It was South Carolinas fifth consecutive win in the teams 105-game rivalry, the programs longest-ever streak over its hated rival.
They dont play well when they play us, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. I started thinking, amazingly when we play these guys from Clemson, the script follows the same thing.
South Carolina controlled the clock, controlled the ground game and won the turnover battle, forcing six to Clemsons zero. The Gamecocks also converted 10 of 18 third downs.
Clemsonoutgained USC 352-318, but held the ball for just 21:51 to USCs 38:09 and ran 57 plays to the Gamecocks 78.
This is nobodys responsibility but mine, period, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. We didnt get it done. Again, the guys played very hard but we didnt do the things you need to do to win the game. Its a miracle, considering the turnovers we had, that it was a 17-17 game in the fourth quarter.
Swinney blamed no one but himself.
Its one were going to have to live with for another year, he said. It hurts for everyone that bragging rights stay with South Carolina, but they earned it.
Clemson is 21-4 over the last two seasons, but all four losses have come to South Carolina and Florida State, two chief rivals.
10-win seasons are hard to get, Swinney said. Thats what I know. I want to win them all. I dont wish to lose any. Do I wish those two losses were different? We got three 10-win seasons in a row and nobody wants to celebrate that. You have to have that perspective and look back and know how hard it is to win games. Weve been very consistent.
Weve made a lot of progress. But youre judged on this game. I know for a lot of people out there, thats how they judge the season. They say you could go 1-11 if you just win this game well, probably not. But this game hurts everyone.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks took the lead for good with an 11-play, 75-yard drive.
Spurriers questionable decision to go for it on fourth and 1 from his own 34 was validated when Clemson defensive tackle DeShawn Williams jumped offsides.
Its what hes been coached to do, Swinney said. We know its going to be a hard count. We werent even sure if theyd run the play. It was a guaranteed hard snap. A really critical mistake. And DeShawn Williams is a guy I love dearly. It was a big mistake. Give them credit, their guys executed better than ours.
That was followed by a 12-yard Connor Shaw scramble and a 15-yard pass interference penalty that pushed the ball into Clemson territory.
A Shaw 10-yard run set up first and goal at the Clemson 6, and tailback Mike Davis finished the drive with a two-yard plunge, giving the Gamecocks a 24-17 edge with 11:47 left.
An impressive Clemson drive pushed into South Carolina territory, but disaster struck at the 30 when Boyd fumbled, with the ball recovered by Chaz Sutton.
I honestly thought I was down, Boyd said. I got down, got lifted back up and it shimmied out. That was how it happened.
Clemsons defense forced a punt, but returner Adam Humphries fumbled at his own 34, with South Carolina recovering.
It was the Tigers fourth turnover of the night, and second on a Humphries punt return.
The Gamecocks applied the dagger quickly: tailback Pharoh Cooper connected with Brandon Wilds for a 26-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 31-17 with 3:44 to play.
Those two turnovers were huge, Swinney said. The last one with Adam, it was a touchdown game, weve moved the ball all night. We give it right back to them, they capitalize. Those 14 points, that killed us.
Shaw rushed 21 times for 92 yards and a touchdown and completed 14 of 26 passes for 152 yards and a score.
Connor Shaw, best quarterback in school history, Spurrier said. Hes probably the difference-maker for us. Running the ball and throwing the ball he had a successful game.
Boyd completed 17 of 23 passes for 200 yards, but didnt have a touchdown through the air and finished with two interceptions.
We lost the turnover margin, Boyd said. You want to look at the story of whats really wrong, look at the turnover stat. Look at theirs and look at ours.
South Carolina held a 17-10 halftime lead after executing a grind-it-out game plan.
The Gamecocks held the ball for 19:42 and kept Clemsons high-powered offense mostly off the field while converting eight of 11 third downs.
Clemsons promising opening drive ended with a poorly executed trick play: Sammy Watkins wide receiver pass was intercepted by Brison Williams in the end zone.
South Carolina responded with a grinding 17-play, 80-yard drive that featured three third-down conversions and burned 8:13 off the clock. Shaw finished the drive with a three-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 Gamecocks lead with 4:23 left in the quarter.
Clemson struck back quickly. Boyd connected with Watkins for a winding 57-yard gain to the Gamecock 12, and then finished the drive with an eight-yard scramble. Just like that, the game was tied at 7, but in much quicker fashion four plays, 75 yards, 1:38 elapsed.
Following a quick three-and-out, Clemson appeared poised to grab momentum, but a special teams snafu changed that. With teammate Martavis Bryant in close quarters, Humphries let the punt bounce off his chest, and South Carolina recovered at the Clemson 39.
South Carolina pounced. Shaw led a quick drive that finished with a nine-yard pass to Shaq Roland in the right corner of the end zone, and the Gamecocks took a 14-7 lead with 14:54 left in the half.
Following another three-and-out for Clemson, the Gamecocks put together another grinding drive, this one covering 13 plays and 65 yards. The Tigers defense held inside the 5, but South Carolina extended the lead to 17-7 and took 5:06 off the clock.
Clemson cut the halftime lead to 17-10 with a huge half-closing drive. Boyd converted a third down of his own, connecting with McDowell for a 28-yard gain on third and 10 from his own 40. McDowell followed with a 19-yard run to push the ball inside the South Carolina 15.
But a 19-yard intentional grounding call on Boyd sabotaged momentum, and Clemson settled for Chandler Catanzaros 38-yard field goal as time expired, cutting the lead to seven points.
On the half, South Carolina ran 45 plays to Clemsons 27. Before a 12-yard Vic Beasley sack on South Carolinas final possession of the half, 100 of the Gamecocks 211 yards came on third down.
Clemson tied the game at 17 with an impressive, clock-chewing drive of its own. The Tigers took over at their own 12 with 9:50 remaining in the third quarter, and moved the ball mostly on the ground, relying on McDowell and Boyd. Each converted a third down on the ground.
Facing a fourth and 1 at the South Carolina 36, Clemson opted to run Boyd up the middle. He was stuffed, but Clemson was saved by a South Carolina offsides call.
Boyd connected with Bryant for an 18-yard gain to the South Carolina 4, and McDowell finished the drive with a four-yard smash into the end zone, capping a 15-play, 88-yard drive.
The drive covered 6:48, Clemsons longest of the season.