No. 4 Clemson defeated South Carolina 56-7 on Saturday night in Death Valley. The Tigers finished the regular season with an 11-1 record (7-1 ACC), while the Gamecocks dropped to 6-6 (3-5 SEC). Here is a look back at how Clemson earned the victory:
Clemson dominated from start to finish, totaling 622 yards of offense and 41 first downs — both all-time records for Clemson in the rivalry — while limiting South Carolina to one touchdown and 218 total yards. Deshaun Watson threw for 347 yards yards and six touchdowns, while Mike Williams caught three touchdown passes and Wayne Gallman ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Meanwhile, Clemson’s defense notched three sacks and eight tackles for loss, paced by Ben Boulware’s seven tackles, two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Clemson jumped out to a 35-0 advantage at halftime after scoring on five of eight possessions in the first two frames. Clemson held South Carolina to seven yards in the first quarter, and the Gamecocks didn’t pick up their initial first down until the three-minute mark of the second quarter.
What went right?
The Watson-Williams connection was lethal. Of Watson’s four touchdown passes in the first half, three of them went to Williams. Overall, Watson tied his own Clemson record for touchdown passes in a single game, set against North Carolina during his freshman season. Watson’s six touchdown throws are the most ever in one game by any quarterback against South Carolina. Meanwhile, Williams’ three touchdown receptions marked the most a Clemson wide receiver has had against South Carolina in a single game.
South Carolina recorded just 14 first downs, and the Tigers converted 10 of 15 third downs while the Gamecocks posted just a 4-of-13 clip on third downs. Clemson scored points on all but one of eight trips to the red zone.
South Carolina freshman quarterback Jake Bentley, who entered the game with a 4-1 record as the Gamecocks’ starting signal-caller, completed 7 of 17 passes for 41 yards and an interception before being replaced by backup Brandon McIlwain. The Tigers also allowed only 111 rushing yards on 29 carries (3.8 average).
What went wrong?
Not much went wrong for Clemson besides a blocked field-goal attempt early in the first quarter and an interception thrown by Watson in the second quarter. Also, Clemson’s defense was fooled by a trick play near the beginning of the third quarter that netted the Gamecocks their first touchdown of the game on a 33-yard pass from wide receiver Deebo Samuel to fellow wideout Bryan Edwards.
Free safety Jadar Johnson’s team-leading fifth interception was the game-changing play in this one. After Clemson’s first possession of the game ended in a blocked Greg Huegel field-goal attempt, Johnson immediately swung momentum back in Clemson’s favor, picking off a pass from Bentley on the next play. Three plays later, Watson fired a 34-yard touchdown pass to Williams down the right sideline for Clemson’s first score of the game. The Tigers went on to score touchdowns on their next two possessions to take a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.