COLUMBIA, S.C. — Myles Murphy and Ruke Orhorhoro quickly converged on ZaQuandre White, limiting South Carolina’s running back to 2 yards on the Gamecocks’ first snap Saturday.
Their next eight offensive plays?
Three plays later, Clemson (9-3) turned Andrew Booth’s first of two picks into three points on B.T. Potter’s 29-yard field goal to grab its first two-score lead late in the first quarter. That was plenty for a defense that dominated the Gamecocks (6-6) from the start.
The nation’s eighth-best scoring defense put together its most suffocating performance of the season in helping Clemson to a 30-0 win at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Tigers’ first shutout in the rivalry series since a 45-0 win in 1989. The win will be even sweeter — literally — for a defense that will be rewarded for its showing with Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Zero Bars on Monday, a tradition under Clemson coach Dabo Swinney any time his defense pitches a shutout.
“That means you’re coming off a good day at the office,” Swinney said. “They were fighting for it. They were talking about it at halftime. Let’s don’t give it up. Let’s keep fighting for it.”
With Carolina on its third-string quarterback, Jason Brown, the Tigers keyed in on the Gamecocks’ running game from the beginning, limiting Carolina to 43 yards rushing. Not much else worked either for Carolina, which finished with just 206 total yards and averaged a minuscule 3.3 yards per play.
Clemson’s offense wasn’t dominant, at least not when it wasn’t ripping off chunks of yards on the ground (6.2 yards per carry). The Tigers threw for just 99 yards, finished 3 of 12 on third down and had just 106 yards in the second half, but Clemson already had a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter before the Gamecocks even crossed midfield, something they did just four times on their own.
One of Carolina’s drives started at Clemson’s 37-yard line late in the third quarter after the Gamecocks backed the Tigers up in the shadow of their own end zone and forced a three-and-out. But Carolina ultimately went backward before turning the ball over on downs.
There were other close calls, too.
Carolina eventually switched quarterbacks, turning to its starter earlier in the season, Zeb Noland, late in the third quarter. He led the Gamecocks into Clemson territory on three of their final four possessions, including the last one.
White kept that drive alive at Clemson’s 37 with a 3-yard rush on fourth-and-2, and the Gamecocks got to the 15 with just a few ticks left, leaving one last play for Carolina to try to get on the scoreboard. But freshman linebacker Jeremiah Trotter chased down a scrambling Noland short of the goal line as time expired to preserve Clemson’s first shutout in more than a year (49-0 win over The Citadel on Sept. 19, 2020).
“Our defense was fighting hard for it, especially how these guys score in the second half and the fourth quarter,” Swinney said. “All the way down to the last play, it was awesome to see so many guys get to play and continue to keep them out of the end zone.”
It was also the 23rd time the Tigers have held Carolina scoreless in the series. All of those shutouts have been in Columbia.
“Any time you get a shutout on the road against anyone, it’s pretty special,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “It ranks right up there with any of them. Not to toot our own horn, but I’m proud of our guys. That doesn’t just happen.”
Now the Tigers are just waiting on their treats.
“We can’t wait,” Booth said. “We reminded (Swinney) and let him know, so he better have them on Monday.
“It feels great, especially to do that to them.”
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