By Will Vandervort.
Order has been restored in the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry.
With the return of quarterback Deshaun Watson and a dominating performance by the defense, No. 21 Clemson ended its five-game losing streak to the Gamecocks with a 35-17 victory in Death Valley.
Watson threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for two more scores, while the offense totaled 491 yards. Wide receiver Artavis Scott recorded 185 of those yards on seven catches, most coming on the jet-sweep pass plays, including two that went for touchdowns of 53 and 70 yards.
Running back Wayne Gallman rushed for a season-high 191 yards and one touchdown as well.
With the offense having its best game since the Tigers’ 41-0 win over NC State on Oct. 4, the defense harassed and frustrated USC quarterback Dylan Thompson. Two years ago, Thompson lit up the Clemson defense for more than 300 yards, but there were no heroics for the senior this time around.
Clemson’s defense sacked Thompson four times as he threw for 249 yards on 21 of 39 passing. One of the sacks led to a fumble that turned the tide in the football game. The Tigers finished the game with 13 tackles for loss.
With the scored tied at 7 with a little more than 12 minutes to play in the second quarter, Thompson rolled to his right where he could not find an open receiver. Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley chased the play from behind and stripped the ball from Thompson’s hands allowing linebacker Ben Boulware to recover the loose football at the South Carolina 36.
Gallman then went off the left side for 31 yards to the USC five and then he finished the drive with a five-yard touchdown on the next play that gave the Tigers a 14-7 lead with 11:14 to play in the half.
Clemson (9-3) increased its lead to 21-7 when Watson capped a 10-play, 61-yard drive with a one-yard score on a quarterback sneak.
The Gamecocks got a late field goal just before the half to make score 21-10 at the break. USC was held to 19 total yards in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, Scott took a jet sweep and went 70 yards to give the Tigers a 28-10 lead with 4:30 to go.
USC (6-6) pulled within 28-17 with a Damiere Byrd touchdown pass of 12 yards from Thompson with 7:49 to play, but Clemson running back Wayne Gallman put the game away when he broke off a 32-yard run and then had another long run that set up Watson’s second touchdown of the day, again from a yard out.
In between the touchdowns, Clemson’s defense had a goal line stand when the Gamecocks drove down to the Clemson two-yard line, but Thompson’s pass to Shaq Roland was deflected by cornerback Gary Peters, who finished the game with a team-high seven tackles.
The Tigers also stoned Thompson on a fourth-and-one sneak at the Clemson 30-yard line to end another drive.
South Carolina took a 7-0 lead with 3:41 to play in the first quarter on a Pharoh Cooper 20-yard touchdown run from the Wildcat formation, but Clemson needed just a minute and 10 seconds to tie things up when Scott went around left end and scooted 53 yards for a touchdown with 2:26 to play in the quarter.