Led by All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and an opportunistic defense, the University of South Carolina made history by winning its fifth consecutive game over arch-rival Clemson this weekend.
USC’s previous record for consecutive victories in the 111-year series was four – set from 1951-54.
The 31-17 win over the sixth-ranked Tigers (10-2, 7-1 ACC) also extended South Carolina’s home winning streak to eighteen games – a record run the Gamecocks (10-2, 6-2 SEC) will carry with them into 2014.
(ANALYSIS: After further review, Clemson’s excuses don’t hold up).
South Carolina senior quarterback Connor Shaw finished his career at Williams-Brice Stadium with an unblemished 17-0 home record. Shaw – who missed last year’s game at Clemson with an injury – completed 14 of 26 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Flowery Branch, Georgia native also ran for 94 yards on 22 carries – including a diving three-yard touchdown run that gave the Gamecocks an early 7-0 lead.
After the game, head coach Steve Spurrier declared Shaw “the best quarterback in school history.”
Shaw’s 26-5 record as a starter at USC probably won’t prompt much argument on that count … certainly not from the 84,174 on hand at Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday night.
But while Shaw’s star shone brightly once again, the real story of the game was South Carolina’s much-maligned defense – which held one of the most explosive offenses in all of college football to just 17 points for the second year in a row.
How’d they do it? By forcing four turnovers – including three from Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who entered the game looking to make a late statement in the race for the Heisman Trophy.
He made a statement, alright … just not one that’s going to help his chances.
Boyd had a pair of interceptions and a lost fumble – while Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins was picked off on a trick play on the Tigers’ opening drive of the game. South Carolina’s special teams also recovered a muffed punt and forced a fumble on a punt return – giving the Gamecocks a 6-0 total turnover advantage.
That’s the most turnovers by a Clemson team in more than three years.
“That wasn’t part of the script,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.
Clowney had a big game – recording a sack, two tackles for losses and numerous quarterback pressures. All told, the Gamecock defense sacked Boyd five times.
It was Clowney’s last home game, too, as he’s likely to declare for the 2014 NFL draft (along with fellow defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles and defensive back Victor Hampton).
South Carolina has now recorded double digit victories in three consecutive seasons under Spurrier – something the program accomplished just once over the prior 115 years. After posting a 35-28 mark in his first five seasons in Columbia, Spurrier has gone 41-11 over the last four seasons.
The news wasn’t all good, though, as South Carolina missed out on its chance to play Auburn in the SEC Championship game thanks to Missouri’s win over Texas A&M. Prior to the game, Spurrier said he’d rather lose to Clemson than miss out on a chance to play for the SEC title.
CLEMSON-CAROLINA STATS (.pdf)