COLUMBIA-- The No. 3 Clemson Tigers (11-1, 7-1 ACC) dominated the No. 24 South Carolina Gamecocks (8-4, 5-3 SEC) Saturday night by a final score of 34-10.
On a weekend that saw the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide and the No. 2 Miami Hurricanes both lose road games; the Tigers were able to head into Williams-Brice Stadium in front of 82,908 garnet-clad fans and leave with their fourth consecutive victory in the series.
“That was fun. I’m really happy for our team, for our staff and our fans,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “(South Carolina head coach) Will (Muschamp) has done a great job of building a program…but our guys have embraced the fact that every week is a playoff.
“The first team in Clemson history to go on the road and beat four ranked teams in a single year. And I’m really proud of our seniors for getting their fourth straight win in the series that means so much.”
After each team exchanged punts on their opening possession, it was the Clemson defense that opened the scoring. After a Will Spiers punt pinned the Gamecocks at the 1-yard line, Gamecock quarterback Jack Bentley’s pass was intercepted by Ryan Carter and returned 12 yards.
“The interception was a huge spark in play early,” Swinney said. “But that was the little things showing up in his technique where he disguised his coverage and got the pick.”
After the Tiger’s defense forced their third punt in the first half, the offense got on the scoreboard. A 1-yard touchdown run by Tavien Feaster, capped a 9-play, 80-yard drive that extended the Clemson lead to 14-0. The Tigers were not finished with their first half scoring, as Kelly Bryant found Hunter Renfrow from 4 yards out to end the first half up 20-0.
Clemson continued their domination in the second half. After a 39-yard return of the opening kickoff by Travis Etienne. The Tigers needed only 1 play and 21 seconds, after Bryant found Renfrow for his second score of the day for a 61-yard touchdown pass that extended the lead to 27-0. The Tigers added a final touchdown in the third quarter, as Travis Etienne capped off a 13-play, 69-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run that gave the Tigers a 34-0 lead.
South Carolina broke their scoring drought in the fourth quarter. After a Bryant interception gave the ball to the Gamecocks the Clemson 22-yard line, Gamecock kicker Parker White kicked a 40-yard field goal that cut the lead to 34-3.
A second interception of the night for the Tigers—by backup quarterback Hunter Johnson—led to the Gamecocks final score of the night, as Jake Bentley found Bryan Edwards for a 38-yard touchdown pass.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE TIGERS: Balanced offense and dominant defense
The Tigers amassed 469 yards of offense on 285 yards passing and 184 yards rushing, while holding the Gamecocks to only 207 total yards of offense—207 passing and 126 rushing.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE TIGERS: Interceptions
On a night which saw the Tigers execute nearly flawless football, the Tigers had two interceptions on the night—one by Bryant and the second by backup quarterback Hunter Johnson—that resulted in the Gamecocks only points on the night.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Kelly Bryant
The Tiger quarterback finished the night with 272 yards passing (23-34) with two touchdowns and one interception.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Ryan Carter
With each team struggling to get into a rhythm to start the game, Carter shifted momentum and opened the floodgates on the Tigers scoring with his 12-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter.
STAT OF THE GAME: Pick-six
With the “pick-six” in the first quarter, Clemson scored a non-offensive touchdown in every road game this season.
The Clemson Tigers will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on the Miami Hurricanes in the ACC Championship Game Saturday (8 p.m., ABC).