Sunday, November 25, 2012 12:46 am
No. 12 Clemson losses 4th straight in rivalry
By PETE IACOBELLIAP Sports Writer
The 12th-ranked Tigers (10-2) lost their fourth straight to No. 13 South Carolina 27-17 on Saturday night, their first home loss in two years - when they fell to the Gamecocks to close the 2010 regular season.
"It's a hurt locker room," Swinney said. "It's been quite a while since we lost one here at home and there's certainly no fun in that locker room tonight."
Usually, Clemson's locker room is the place for trophy celebrations, like the ACC Atlantic Division hardware the Tigers collected a week ago for sharing that title with Florida State, and Swinney's crazy dances following big wins.
Instead, it was the place where Swinney had to apologize to Tigers fans and Clemson's seniors, who left campus 0-4 against their rivals for just the second time in school history.
Gamecocks backup quarterback Dylan Thompson threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns and star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had 4 1-2 sacks to set the school single-season record. All of it kept Clemson's usually high-flying offense grounded.
"We'll learn some lessons from this," Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd said. "We'll learn some life lessons from this, too. We just have to come back and get ready for this bowl."
It was the first time since 1951-54 Clemson had lost four straight in the series. The victory also gave Steve Spurrier the school wins record at South Carolina, joining the Paul "Bear" Bryant as the only coaches with that distinction at two Southeastern Conference schools (Alabama and Kentucky).
Thompson kept the ball out of Clemson's hands in the second half in replacing injured starter Connor Shaw. But Spurrier understood that Clowney's one-of-a-kind pressure on Clemson's high-flying offense gave his team its chance at history.
"You can't block Jadeveon one-on-one," Spurrier said. "We've got him one more year. Then we are going to shake his hand and thank him for what he has done." And send him off to terrorize NFL quarterbacks.
Thompson got the call for the Gamecocks (10-2) because Shaw sprained his left foot last week against Wofford. And the Gamecocks sophomore made the most of it with TD passes of 13 and 6 yards to Bruce Ellington and 34 yards to Ace Sanders.
Spurrier's won 65 games in eight seasons, surpassing Rex Enright for most victories by a South Carolina coach. The Gamecocks finished with 10 victories for a second consecutive season, a first in program history.
"When we play Clemson, they don't seem to play very well," Spurrier said.
That was true again in this one as Clemson's offense and Boyd never got on track. The Tigers came leading the Atlantic Coast Conference and were sixth in the country with 535 yards a game. They finished with 328 yards against South Carolina, 165 over the final three quarters.
Boyd was 11 of 24 for 183 yards and two crushing interceptions, the last one that set up Thompson's clinching TD throw to Ellington with 4:17 left.
When it was over, South Carolina's players started their fans in the chant, "Four In A Row! Four In A Row!"
It's been 58 years since the Gamecocks could say that, their one-and-only four-game series win streak occurring from 1951-54.
South Carolina's win made the Southeastern Conference 4-0 against ACC opponents Saturday.
"Our style is a lot different in the Southeastern Conference," Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. "We play a more physical style."
Spurrier decided Wednesday to start Thompson. "For a guy who hadn't played much, he did very well," Spurrier said.
Spurrier said Shaw should be ready for South Carolina's bowl. Did Thompson think he'd earned another start? "I'm not worried about that. We just beat Clemson four times in a row," he said.
Thompson said he got a text from injured Gamecocks star Marcus Lattimore telling him to "remember who you play for. Go all out," the quarterback said.
Lattimore injured his knee against Tennessee on Oct. 27.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney lamented is team's inability to get the ball in the second half, running just 19 plays to South Carolina's 51.
"We just couldn't stop them on third down. The third quarter was huge. We had too many penalties, too many turnovers and South Carolina did a great job of controlling the ball," Swinney said.
Shaw sprained his left foot in the win over Wofford last week and barely practiced during the week. Shaw came out in full uniform and helmet during warmups and appeared to move easily. Still, this was Thompson's start and he kept the Gamecocks in it.
Thompson answered Clemson's 16-play, 85-yard touchdown drive with a solid showing of his own on South Carolina's following series. He went 4-for-4 for 56 yards, including a 13-yard TD pass to Bruce Ellington.
Boyd showed Clemson's quick strike capabilities moments later, hitting DeAndre Hopkins for a go-ahead, 43-yard touchdown pass. It was Hopkins' ninth straight game with a touchdown catch and extended his school record to 16 scoring grabs this season.
But that was largely it for Clemson's scoring, limited to a field goal the last 45 minutes. "I just want to apologize to our fan base, to our seniors, to everyone," said Swinney, who fell to 1-4 against the Gamecocks.
Clowney had 1.5 sacks in the opening half, and then added three more in the final two quarters to best the team's single-season mark of 10 shared by Andrew Provence (1982) and Melvin Ingram (2011).