The 4-1-1 on Clemson's loss to South Carolina

The 4-1-1 on Clemson's loss to South Carolina

Football

The 4-1-1 on Clemson's loss to South Carolina

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Clemson saw its 40-game home winning streak as well as its seven-game winning streak against South Carolina end Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Here are four sequences that went a long way in determining the outcome, a turning point and a telling stat from the Tigers’ 31-30 setback.

  • Clemson was fortunate its first possession didn’t end in a turnover when a pair of Tiger receivers ran into each other on a third-down play. D.J. Uiagalelei’s pass went through the hands and off the chest of a Carolina defender, and the Tigers ended up punting. But linebacker Jeremiah Trotter didn’t miss his chance when a chance to force Carolina’s offense into a turnover presented itself on the Gamecocks’ first possession. Trotter stepped in front of Spencer Rattler’s pass over the middle and intercepted it before getting some blocking to race 35 yards for a pick-six that gave Clemson a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
  • Already leading 14-7, Clemson backed Carolina’s offense up early in the second quarter when punter Aidan Swanson pinned the Gamecocks at their own 2-yard line with a well-placed 52-yarder. Clemson kept its momentum going when Ruke Orhorhoro broke into the backfield on Carolina’s next play and pressured Rattler into a safety (intentional grounding in the end zone). But the momentum quickly shifted when Clemson tried some trickeration on the ensuing kickoff. Will Shipley fielded it before handing the ball off to Phil Mafah in a huddle. Mafah broke outside but fumbled near the end of his run. Traevon Kenion pounced on the loose ball for the Gamecocks at Clemson’s 31, and Carolina got back within a possession four plays later when Rattler took off on a 4-yard touchdown scamper.
  • Clemson answered Carolina’s second touchdown with a 75-yard scoring march of its own, but the Gamecocks looked primed to immediately cut into another nine-point deficit thanks to some aggression by head coach Shane Beamer, who made the call to go with his offense facing fourth-and-1 at its own 34. The gamble paid off when the Gamecocks quickly snapped the ball and sucked the Tigers’ defense up with a play-action pass. Rattler went deep to Juju McDowell, who hauled in the pass and raced 65 yards before being wrestled down at Clemson’s 1. Rattler went for the score two plays later when he threw in the direction of a receiver making his way across the end zone, but safety R.J. Mickens was waiting there for the interception with 3 minutes, 18 seconds left in the second quarter, continuing a first half full of momentum swings.
  • A 23-yard punt return by Antonio Williams into Carolina territory midway through the third quarter helped set up a short touchdown drive for Clemson, again extending its lead to nine points. But Carolina came right back with a response when Rattler found Antwane Wells. Jr. behind the defense on the Gamecocks’ ensuing possession for a 72-yard catch-and-run score. Clemson went three-and-out on its next possession, and Carolina kept its momentum with a drive deep into Tiger territory. It could’ve been worse for Clemson if not for a facemask penalty on Wells that negated a completion that got the Gamecocks inside the Tigers’ 10, but Mitch Jeter eventually booted a 35-yard field goal to give Carolina its first lead with 10:45 left.

Turning point

Clemson’s defense held Carolina to a three-and-out with less than 3 minutes left, seemingly setting up one last chance for the Tigers’ offense to drive for the winning score. But the unit never touched the ball again after Antonio Williams fumbled the return near midfield. The Gamecocks recovered the loose ball with 2:09 remaining and ran out the rest of the clock.

Telling stat: 3

That’s how many turnovers Clemson had on a day in which it lost the turnover margin for the fifth straight game. Two of them came within the last six minutes of the game, and Williams’ fumble in the waning minutes proved to be the dagger.

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