If the Clemson stops the run against South Carolina, it’d likely result in a seventh straight win. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks rushed 58 times for 223 yards, pacing their 34-17 win in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.
“There’s no earth-shattering news here,” Swinney said. “We didn’t do what it takes to win on the road.”
Brandon Maye credited defensive coordinator Kevin Steele with putting together a solid game plan. It was the players who didn’t carry it on to the field, according to Maye.
“We didn’t execute well and we didn’t deserve to win. That’s what happened to us today,” he said.
South Carolina running back Kenny Miles led the Gamecocks’ rushing attack, carrying 17 times for 114 yards and quarterback Stephen Garcia added 14 rushes for 46 yards.
But more times than not, the Tigers were pushed backwards instead of knocking the ball carrier to the ground.
“I felt like we tackled well,” Maye said. “Guys were jumping out of their gaps, opening holes for the quarterback and running back.”
On top of a big day rushing, Swinney credited South Carolina for taking advantage of three Clemson turnovers.
“When you go on the road, turn the ball over and can’t stop the run, it’s hard to win,” he said.
Akeem Auguste stripped Jamie Harper as the Tigers drove downfield in the first quarter, looking to tack on to the 7-0 lead. Eric Norwood recovered the fumble before tripping over the Gamecock 40 with plenty of running room between him and the end zone.
Stephon Gilmore engineered the ensuing scoring drive out of the wildcat formation with three straight runs before he hit Alshon Jeffrey for 39 yards, setting up a one-yard touchdown run by Brian Maddox off an option pitch from Garcia.
Five plays later, DeVonte Holloman intercepted Kyle Parker at the South Carolina 35, returning the pick 55 yards to the Clemson 11. After rushing for two yards, Garcia hit Weslye Saunders for a nine-yard touchdown pass. Spencer Lanning’s extra-point push the lead to 14-7.
Lanning knocked down a 47-yard field goal off the right upright to give the Gamecocks a 17-7 lead with 10:44 to play in the first half. Earlier in the drive, Clemson forced South Carolina to punt from their 38 before a roughing the kicker penalty allowed the Gamecocks to post three more points.
“We spotted them 17 points,” said C.J. Spiller, who carried nine times for just 18 yards. “Playing against a team like that, you just can’t do it- you’ll get the same results every time.”
Spiller returned the game’s second opening kick-off 88 yards for the game’s opening touchdown. South Carolina was flagged for off-sides on the opening kick-off, which he returned just 20 yards.
“That gave us a little momentum. As a team, we have to learn how to sustain that,” he said.
Momentum continued to build in favor of the orange and purple when, on the Gamecock’s first drive, Garcia was intercepted by Rashard Hall in South Carolina territory.
With six straight wins for Clemson and three straight losses for South Carolina, momentum seemed to be in favor of the Tigers. Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier thought the combination of their bye week and the Tigers’ date in the ACC Championship next week combined would favor his team.
“We were ready to play, but you still have to go play. We didn’t play perfectly,” Spurrier said.
“I think when Clemson beats us they don’t celebrate it wildly. We’ll try to enjoy the victory tonight and celebrate that, but after today, we’ll go to the next game.”
Garcia hooked up with Tori Gurley for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 7:47 to play in the third quarter, adding seven points on to the Gamecocks’ 17-7 halftime lead.
As the South Carolina faithful celebrated in the stands, Clemson tried to scratch its way back into the game.
Da’Quan Bowers blocked Lanning’s 42-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter. It was the first kick the Tigers have blocked all season.
A helmet to helmet flag on a third-down incompletion allowed Richard Jackson to knock down a 45-yard field goal with 11:23 left in the game, cutting the deficit to 14. But Lanning’s 38-yard field goal with 5:22 to play pushed it back to 17 (27-10).
On the ensuing drive, Parker hooked up with Michael Palmer for a 22-yard touchdown pass--the only offensive touchdown of the day.
“They did a good job of getting after us,” Swinney said. “After we became one-dimensional, I thought they did a good job of affecting our rhythm on offense.”
The Tigers had three consecutive drives that ended with three plays and a punt, finishing with five three and out drives. On the day, Clemson rushed 19 times for 48 yards and threw for 212, completing 22 of 42 passes.
Swinney said the focus must shift to next week’s matchup versus Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship.
“Our next goal is to try to win the ACC. We will turn the page really quickly,” he said.