COLUMBIA, S.C. — There is a saying amongst former Clemson players that when the Tigers come to Columbia to play archrival South Carolina … they are coming to collect rent.
Clemson’s defense served as the rent collector Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium, as the Tigers shut out the Gamecocks for the first time since 1989 with a 30-0 victory.
Dating back to the series’ old “Big Thursday” days, the Tigers have always had their way with the Gamecocks no matter if it was called Carolina Stadium or Williams-Brice Stadium. Clemson moved its all-time road record against South Carolina to 53-32-3. The 53 road wins at South Carolina are more than double its most all-time road wins against any other opponent.
To take it a step further, the Tigers own a 17-6 record against the Gamecocks in Columbia since 1977, including four straight victories at Williams-Brice. In all, they have recorded 23 shutouts against South Carolina over the years, and all 23 have come in Columbia.
The latest edition of the rivalry was not much of a challenge for Clemson. The Tigers won their seventh straight in the series thanks to a defense that dominated a putrid South Carolina offense and behind a running game that continues to get better and better with each game.
“It was an unbelievable complete team effort,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said after the game. “I think they rushed for 43 yards. We knew we needed to stop the run, and if we did, we felt like we could create some turnovers.
“Then we needed to run the ball, so we won the line of scrimmage and rushed for 265.”
The Tigers (9-3) dominated the line of scrimmage, especially on the defensive side of the ball where Carolina failed to run the ball with any consistency. The Gamecocks averaged just 2.2 yards per carry, while their longest run was 12 yards, which came on the last play of the game when backup quarterback Zeb Noland scrambled to the 4-yard line.
The only suspense on Saturday was whether USC (6-6) was going to score. Noland nearly ran it in on the game’s last play after USC drove the ball 72 yards on nine plays in the final two minutes.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said he was not nervous that Noland nearly broke the shutout, but angry was the better word.
“Angry is probably more accurate,” he said while laughing. “But I am proud that we kept them out. So, I was not nervous. It was a great overall performance and it sure was nice.”
As Swinney said, the Gamecocks finished with 43 rushing yards and just 206 yards overall. Clemson has also now held three straight opponents to 50 or fewer rushing yards for the first time since 1991 against Maryland, South Carolina and Duke.
“They were fighting for (the shutout),” Swinney said. “We talked about it at halftime. We were like, ‘Let’s don’t give it up. Let’s keep fighting for it.’”
They did not give it up. The defense collected the rent and brought something extra back to Clemson, as well.
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