When asked how he was feeling following Saturday’s 56-35 victory over rival South Carolina, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables paused, took a breath and said, “It was painful.”
It was painful. It was painful to watch.
Clemson’s proud defense, which came into its rivalry game with the Gamecocks leading the nation in yards allowed per play, yards per rush and scoring defense, gave up 600 yards to South Carolina. It was the most yards Clemson has allowed in a game since it allowed 667 to Florida State in 2012.
“I was disappointed with our performance tonight, but not with everyone,” Venables said. “I thought South Carolina, and Jake (Bentley), they had a good plan and played well.
“Obviously, I did not coach them very well tonight. I am embarrassed at the different things that happened tonight. Obviously, it is my responsibility to get our guys ready. We were not as sharp as we have been. We gave up three games worth of passing yards tonight.”
Bentley threw for 510 yards, while completing 32-of-50 passes and five touchdown passes. The 510 yards were not only the most ever by a Gamecocks’ quarterback in the rivalry, but are the second most yards by an opposing quarterback in the program’s history. The five touchdowns tied Jeff Grantz’s South Carolina record in the rivalry as well.
“I’m pretty disgusted with myself,” Venables said.
The 600 yards were the fifth most allowed by a Clemson defense in program history, but unlike the four that came before it, this one was not expected.
“I would not have imagined it,” linebacker Kendall Joseph said. “I’m glad we finished the game and we kept fighting.”
Clemson (12-0) had no answer for South Carolina’s passing game as Deebo Samuel, Shi Smith and Kiel Pollard were running wide open all night. Samuel finished with 10 catches for 210 yards and scored three touchdowns. Samuel’s 210 yards were the fourth most all-time against Clemson.
Smith finished with nine catches for 109 yards, while Pollard had two receptions for 94 yards.
The Gamecocks (6-5) finished the night converting on 7-of-14 third downs. Opponents were converting just 27 percent of the time against Clemson prior to Saturday.
“This leaves a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth,” defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. “Obviously, I’m excited that we beat our rivals five times in a row and we are undefeated against them, but what we did on defense, can’t happen again because we are going to play good competition from here on out so we definitely have to do a better job.
“That starts with guys taking ownership first and foremost. We have to get the game plan down and execute on the field.”