A number of ESPN analysts chimed in with various comments after eighth-ranked Clemson’s 31-30 rivalry loss to South Carolina on Saturday at Death Valley.
Along with the Tigers being outplayed on special teams, ESPN’s Trevor Matich pointed to South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler outdueling Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei as a big difference in the outcome of the game.
Uiagalelei completed only 8 of his 29 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown with one interception, while Rattler went 25 of 39 passing for 360 yards a two touchdowns with two picks.
“You talk about ‘Beamer Ball’ – the special teams of South Carolina were a major contributing factor here,” Matich said on ESPN’s Championship Drive show of Shane Beamer’s team pulling off the upset. “But they won the quarterback duel. Spencer Rattler was phenomenal. Against Tennessee the week before, he was unstoppable. A lot of people thought that was just a one-off. But against a better Clemson defense, Rattler continued to hit receivers that were covered, dropping dimes under pressure. He was by far the better quarterback in this game. Threw for over 300 yards, whereas DJ Uiagalelei didn’t reach a hundred yards, and so that was the big difference.”
Rattler – a week after passing for 438 yards and six touchdowns in South Carolina’s upset home win over then-No. 5 Tennessee – had more yards against Clemson by himself than the Tigers posted in total offense as a team (336).
Meanwhile, opposite of Rattler, Uiagalelei had his most ineffective performance of the season as a passer as he set season-lows for completions and completion percentage (27.6). His interception marked his sixth time in seven games committing at least one turnover.
“Inconsistent all season long,” ESPN’s Jesse Palmer said of Uiagalelei on the network’s College Football Final show.
Matich spoke about Clemson at the quarterback position, saying the Tigers need to address it.
Dabo Swinney addressed his team’s quarterback situation again on Sunday, with the head coach stating that Uiagalelei will remain the starter for Saturday’s ACC Championship Game vs. North Carolina.
“Clemson now needs to sit back and say OK, the quarterback position is a place that we need to address,” Matich said. “We thought we had it fixed at the beginning of the year, but in the biggest games at the end of the year, we still didn’t break through when our opponents did.”
Turnovers were once again an issue with Clemson committing three more in Saturday’s game, giving the Tigers 15 in their last five games.
Two of those turnovers came on special teams, one on Antonio Williams’ punt return fumble in the waning moments of the fourth quarter that gave the ball back to the Gamecocks and allowed them to run out the clock.
The other special teams turnover occurred in the first half, when trickeration on a kickoff return – which saw Will Shipley hand the ball off to Phil Mafah in a scrum huddle — ended with Mafah fumbling the ball back to South Carolina.
South Carolina capitalized on that giveaway when Rattler scored on a 4-yard run, which cut the Gamecocks’ deficit to two points midway through the second quarter.
“Turnovers would be a problem for Clemson in this game,” ESPN’s Joey Galloway said on College Football Final. “To go trick play in this kind of game, you’re up 16-7, I don’t know about the call. Didn’t work out.”
In addition to snapping Clemson’s series and home winning streaks at seven and 40 games, respectively, the Gamecocks also put an end to any hopes the Tigers had of making the College Football Playoff.
“Yes, they’re done,” Heather Dinich, who covers the playoff for ESPN, said on Championship Drive.
“Had Clemson finished as a one-loss conference champ and you have a TCU loss or a USC loss, that ACC Champion is still in the conversation. Not anymore. You’re guaranteed to either have a two-loss champ or three-loss, (if) North Carolina wins this thing. And I mean, that is not gonna happen. And because Ohio State and Alabama are sitting there on the edge, they’re certainly getting the nod over Clemson.”
Saturday’s ACC Championship Game between Clemson (10-2, 8-0 ACC) and North Carolina (9-3, 6-2) is set for an 8 p.m. kickoff on ABC.
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