Clemson dominated South Carolina on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium to close out the regular season with its fifth straight win. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly from the Tigers’ 30-0 victory:
Where to start?
The first possession of the game seems like a good place. Clemson took the opening kickoff and wasted no time setting the tone with a seven-play, 73-yard scoring drive capped by Will Shipley’s 29-yard touchdown run, which yet again became a theme for the Tigers’ offense.
After Clemson racked up a season-high 333 rushing yards the previous week against Wake Forest, the Tigers, again shorthanded at receiver, pounded away at Carolina with 43 rushing attempts and all three of their touchdowns on the ground. An offensive line that started the same five for the second straight week got consistent push, the Tigers again utilized more multiple tight end sets to help block, and Shipley and Kobe Pace did the rest. Clemson ripped off 6.2 yards per carry, an average that actually dropped from a whopping 7.7 in the first half, which included Pace’s 34-yard touchdown early in the second quarter that gave Clemson a three-score lead.
That was plenty for a defense that, for the first time in more than three decades against its biggest rival, didn’t give up anything. Even without the services of starting defensive end Xavier Thomas (hamstring), Clemson suffocated Carolina from the jump, limiting the Gamecocks to 12 yards in the first quarter and three first downs in the first half. By the time it was over, Clemson held Carolina (206) to 158 fewer yards than the Tigers finished with (364) despite the teams running the same number of plays. Carolina’s yards per play? 3.3.
Cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. continued to improve his draft stock with a pair of interceptions, including one deep in Carolina territory late in the first quarter to set up a 29-yard field goal from B.T. Potter, who continued his perfect end to the regular season.
Potter connected on all three of his field-goal attempts to improve his success rate to 82.6% on the season. The senior has gone 11-for-11 since missing those three field goals against Florida State back on Oct. 30.
Throw in one last stop by Clemson’s backups near the goal line as time expired, and it all helped the Tigers notch their first shutout in the series since 1989 en route to their seventh straight win over the Gamecocks, matching their longest winning streak ever against their in-state rival.
Not that it really had to given the way it moved the ball on the ground, but Clemson’s offense rarely took advantage of that success through the air.
It was another up-and-down day for quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who sported a brace again to help support his sprained right knee. With E.J. Williams (leg) also out for the second straight week, he also threw to a skeleton receiver group again, though freshmen Beaux Collins and Dacari Collins had performed well of late in their new starting roles.
But Uiagalelei finished 9 of 19 for 99 yards and threw an interception on the Tigers’ second possession that accounted for Clemson’s lone turnover. There was also a strange call midway through the second quarter with Clemson trying to add to its 17-0 lead at the time.
The Tigers faced fourth-and-1 from Carolina’s 36-yard line, but instead of running it (again, Clemson averaged more than 7 yards a carry in the first two quarters), they tried to draw Carolina offsides and take advantage of a free play through the air. Except the Gamecocks didn’t jump into the neutral zone for a penalty, and Uiagalelei’s heave down the sideline intended for Beaux Collins fell incomplete.
Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott took the blame for that brief halt in the Tigers’ momentum, admitting he “probably outsmarted” himself on that fourth-down call. But Clemson got it back on Potter’s next field goal to cap the Tigers’ first possession of the third quarter and never relinquished it from that point.
Clemson played one of its cleaner games of the regular season to end it with a shutout of its archrival on the road. The Tigers also got out of Williams-Brice without any other major injuries — and no visible incidents with Carolina fans afterward — so there’s really nothing to put in this category.