COLUMBIA, S.C. — Whatever Dabo Swinney said in the locker room at halftime, it worked.
Clemson came out in the second half and quickly put the 115th edition of the Clemson-South Carolina game to bed when Hunter Renfrow took a pass from quarterback Kelly Bryant, broke a couple of tackles and weaved his way in and out of traffic on his way to a 61-yard touchdown.
From there the third-ranked Tigers rolled as they defeated No. 24 South Carolina 34-10 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.
Clemson (11-1) later got a five-yard touchdown run from Travis Etienne which gave the Tigers a 34-0 lead with 2:47 to play in the third quarter.
It was obvious Clemson was mad coming out of the locker room. Etienne started things off with a 39-yard kickoff return, and then Bryant and Renfrow hooked up for the 61-yard touchdown and the rout was on.
The Tigers and their head coach were mad by the way they were being treated by the South Carolina student body who continuously kept throwing things out of the stands at the Clemson players in the first half.
Following a 4-yard touchdown pass to Renfrow just before halftime, objects were coming out of the stands and hitting the Clemson players. Swinney lost his cool and ran over and gave the officials a piece of his mind. He was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The Tigers took it out on the Gamecocks (8-4) in the second half.
The first half could not have gone any better for Clemson.
The Tigers got an interception return for a score by cornerback Ryan Carter, while Tavien Feaster ran for one score and Bryant threw his first touchdown pass to Renfrow.
Clemson totaled 469 yards, while holding the Gamecocks to 207 total yards. Bryant completed 23-of-34 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns, with freshman wide receiver Tee Higgins grabbing three of those passes for 84 yards.
Renfrow had four catches for 75 yards in the victory.
Higgins had a 24-yard catch which helped set up the Tigers’ first offensive touchdown, while he caught a 40-yard pass from Bryant to set up Clemson’s third touchdown. He later had a 20-yard catch.
Bryant’s counterpart, Jake Bentley, struggled all night against the Clemson defense. He completed just 16-of-29 passes for 128 yards, while throwing two interceptions. He also missed a couple of open receivers that could have extended drives and then threw a costly interception which led directly to Clemson’s first touchdown of the game.
Clemson took a 7-0 lead with 6:50 to play in the first quarter when Bentley gifted wrapped an interception to cornerback Ryan Carter at his own 12-yard line. Carter easily walked in the end zone for the touchdown.
It was the shortest interception return for a touchdown in Clemson history.
Carter’s score was set up when Isaiah Simmons downed a 43-yard punt by Will Spiers at the USC one.
Clemson increased its lead to 14-0 with 8:12 to go in the second quarter when Feaster ran in from a yard out. The Feaster touchdown capped a 9-play, 80-yard scoring drive for the Tigers. The key play was a 24-yard pass to Higgins on a third-and-10 play from the Clemson 47-yard line.
That moved the ball to the USC 29-yard line and then Cornell Powell drew an interference penalty to put the ball on the 15.
After a South Carolina roughing the passer penalty moved the ball to the USC 6, Feaster needed two runs to get the ball in the end zone.
The Tigers went 80 yards on their next possession too. This time Bryant capped the scoring drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Renfrow on third-and-goal.
The big play on the drive came on a 40-yard pass to Higgins which moved the ball to the Carolina 9. Spence missed the extra point and Clemson led 20-0 with 1:59 to play in the half.
Clemson is now one win from advancing to the College Football Playoff for a third straight year. It will need a win over Miami in next week’s ACC Championship game to solidify the berth.
With Alabama and Miami both losing this week, the Tigers should move up to No. 1 in the latest College Football Playoff Poll.