By William Qualkinbush.
Steve Spurrier’s opening statement said it. He did not need any more words.
“Like I told our team, Clemson was better than us,” he said following a 35-17 Clemson win on Saturday. “They were better than us today. They played better and they coached better, and we got beat. It’s as simple as that.”
For the first time in six seasons, Spurrier had a losing press conference after contesting his counterpart, Dabo Swinney, in the intrastate rivalry. The veteran coach was humble and accepted blame for some of the mistakes that cost his team.
“Obviously, there are a lot of things we could have done differently, on offense and defense,” Spurrier said. “We gave up some big third down passes early in the game, but at times, we forced a bunch of punts. We gave up 35 points, but our defense really didn’t play all that poorly.”
Over the past half-decade, Spurrier has used a similar formula to defeat Clemson on a regular basis. The Gamecocks have been effective running the football, they have controlled the time of possession, and they have dominated the turnover battle.
On Saturday in front of 82,000-plus at Memorial Stadium, Clemson flipped the script. The Tigers imposed their will on the ground, outrushing South Carolina 225-63 on seven additional attempts. Led by freshman Wayne Gallman’s 182-yard day, the Tigers bested the Gamecocks by almost four yards per carry, a testament to a Clemson team that controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
“They’re the best in the country,” Spurrier said of Clemson’s defense. “They played like the best.
“Their team is a good team. Their team looks like they could have beaten about anybody.”
South Carolina still won the time of possession, holding the football for 31:20, but Clemson had a pair of long scoring drives—one in each half—that milked the clock at critical moments.
For five seasons, the Tigers have been a combined minus-12 in turnover margin against the Gamecocks. This time around, the two teams split with one apiece. Spurrier lamented his team putting the ball in jeopardy on a number of occasions, particularly on third down.
“We were throwing into air,” he said. “Where’s the receiver? What were we doing? We had some poorly coached plays, put it that way.”
When asked about potential staff changes—always a possibility after a disappointing season—Spurrier stood up and walked away. He did, however, discuss what kind of team he has heading into a bowl game.
“6-6 might be what we are,” Spurrier said. “We’re bowl-eligible, and we’re 6-6. Obviously, we could have won some, and we could have lost some we won. Maybe we just say this is where we are and go try to win us a bowl game. It’s as simple as that.”