The South Carolina Gamecocks are known for having their late-season collapses and falling short in their rivalry with the Clemson Tigers. This weekend’s win changed that as South Carolina defeated Clemson in Columbia for the first since 2001, with a final score of 34-17.
This victory is not only a big one for the Gamecock seniors, but a much needed confidence booster for one of the youngest teams in the FBS. In addition to the intangible positives, this win also guarantees a bowl game for the Gamecocks, who finish the regular season with a 7-5 record.
As if the win over the rival Clemson Tigers was not enough, there is also the impressive defensive performance that can potentially end the Heisman campaign of Clemson running back CJ Spiller; he ended with 141 total yards – 18 rushing, 19 receiving and 104 on kick and punt returns.
The game did not start in the Gamecocks’ favor however. The second opening kickoff, after an offside penalty on the Gamecocks, was returned 88 yards for a touchdown by CJ Spiller.
South Carolina’s first drive came with two scares and ended in disappointment. Quarterback Stephen Garcia attempted a pass to wide receiver Moe Brown that was dropped by Clemson defensive back Chris Chancellor, which was followed by a fumble that South Carolina was fortunate to retain. The drive ended with an interception by Clemson safety Rashard Hall.
The Gamecocks responded to their hard times later in the first quarter with a surprising drive which consisted mostly of the “Wild Cock” formation run by freshman cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Stephen Garcia capped off the drive pitching the ball to running back Brian Maddox on an option for a one-yard touchdown run.
South Carolina scored one last time in the first half when Garcia threw a touchdown pass to tight end Weslye Saunders giving them a quick 17-7 lead over the fifteenth-ranked Clemson Tigers.
The scoring continued into the second half with a 14-yard strike from Garcia to wide receiver Tori Gurley to give the Gamecocks a 24-7 lead. Clemson would, however add a field goal by kicker Richard Jackson as well as a touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Parker to tight end Michael Palmer.
In the spirit of the heated rivalry, South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier attempted a fourth down conversion at Clemson’s one-yard line and scored a touchdown on a pass from Garcia to Weslye Saunders, their second scoring connection of the day. This score became a possibility after a great return by wide receiver Alshon Jeffery on a failed onside kick attempt by Clemson.
That final touchdown gave South Carolina their 34-17 lead over Clemson, which ultimately would hold until the end. In one early afternoon in Williams-Brice Stadium, the South Carolina Gamecocks got two monkeys off their backs by winning a late season game and getting a much needed victory over their in-state rivals.
Stephen Garcia finished the game completing ten of twenty-one passes for 126 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Clemson will travel to Tampa, Florida to play Georgia Tech for the ACC Championship and an automatic berth to the Orange Bowl.
South Carolina will have time before they hit the field. At 7-5 they have earned a bid to a bowl game and are awaiting offers and a decision on which. We will keep you posted on this development.