CFN Analysis: South Carolina 27, Clemson 17
The Gamecocks were without their starting QB, but they still got by the Tigers.
Backup Dylan Thompson outplayed fringe Heisman contender Tajh Boyd … in Death Valley. Hard to see that development coming as kickoff approached.
Steve Spurrier is the unrivaled king of the Palmetto State, fittingly becoming the winningest coach in South Carolina history in front of a Clemson home crowd. Four straight wins over the Tigers not only gets the fans riled up, but it also does wonders on Signing Day, when the Gamecocks and Tigers compete for the state's top talent.
South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney tormented Boyd for four sacks on Saturday night … on a bad hoof. Had he been playing at 100%, and was able to plant properly, he might have been draped on the quarterback a half-dozen times.
Clemson just played its way out of an at-large BCS bowl berth, and a hefty payday for both itself and the ACC.
For those who like poking holes in the SEC, the league just got done treating the ACC like a tackling dummy in Week 14. Not only did South Carolina handle Clemson on the road, but Georgia blasted Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt hammered Wake Forest and Florida beat ACC flag-bearer Florida State in Tallahassee.
The South Carolina secondary, with help from Clowney and the pass rush, did a remarkable job of limiting Clemson receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins to only five catches for less than 100 yards and a touchdown.
By Matt Zemek
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As they traveled to Clemson for Saturday night's regular season finale, the South Carolina Gamecocks did not know if they owned a proven quarterback in high-stakes road games… not in 2012, at any rate. Connor Shaw wilted in the fourth quarter at LSU and then crumbled from the get-go at Florida. The Gamecocks lost the two toughest SEC road games on their schedule this season, while Shaw flourished at home in Columbia. What remained to be seen was if South Carolina could win its second straight game in Death Valley and its fourth straight against its in-state rival. That was only going to happen, though, if a Gamecock quarterback displayed toughness between the ears.
When Shaw was not announced as the starting quarterback shortly before kickoff, the first instinct of a Gamecock partisan was probably inclined toward despair more than optimism. Yes, Shaw had wobbled on the road, but he was still the main trigger man for Steve Spurrier's Marcus Lattimore-free offense. It stood to reason that Shaw was still the man who needed to sit in the saddle for South Carolina. Shaw had certainly demonstrated the capacity to push the ball down the field and generate copious quantities of points against Tennessee and Arkansas. Clemson represented a higher caliber of opponent than the Vols or Razorbacks, but Shaw still had a chance to attack the Tigers' back line of defense. His removal from the starting spot offered cause for alarm in the Carolina camp.
Dylan Thompson proceeded to wipe away those concerns with a steely second-half showing.
All the frailties shown by Shaw in Baton Rouge and Gainesville did not appear in Thompson's game in Clemson… not in the final stages of the fourth quarter, at any rate. Thompson threw an end-zone interception early in the fourth quarter, but when given one more chance to register a kill shot, the No. 2 signal caller for the Gamecocks produced a big-boy touchdown drive with a combination of pocket presence, third-down scrambling ability, and measured patience that had not existed in September. Spurrier has won big games before with backup quarterbacks or two-quarterback systems (think of Noah Brindise and Doug Johnson for Florida against Florida State in 1997, or Jesse Palmer and Rex Grossman for Florida against South Carolina in 2000), and Thompson's emergence when called upon gave the Head Ball Coach another feather in his cap.
South Carolina – playing backups at multiple skill positions – was able to beat Clemson on the road. The Gamecocks were able to fend off the Tigers on a night when Dabo Swinney's team had a BCS bowl bid to play for. There's no shame in losing the SEC East to Georgia and Florida. By locking up a 10-win regular season and maintaining superiority over Clemson, South Carolina can now say that this regular season is, on balance, a successful one.
Dylan Thompson, after lurking in the shadows through eleven weeks, can know that he played a large role in giving the Gamecocks that special form of satisfaction.
By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN
- Once again the ACC tripped and fell all over itself today. There were four matchups against the big, bad SEC, and none of the games ended with a victory. On to basketball season...
- Welcome to the big-time Dylan Thompson. The sophomore QB for South Carolina had plenty of time to work behind his O-line tonight. He made the Clemson defense pay to the tune of over 300 yards through the air in relief of the gutsy Connor Shaw. The future looks bright for the kid and his two notable performances this year should at least put his name in the conversation for some added time in 2013.
- Say what you will about SEC fatigue, but the superleague just keeps winning on almost every stage it's afforded. There is a reason the league gets the benefit of the doubt in the rankings and every other measurable. Until someone knocks the SEC out, it's still king.
- Does anyone want this Heisman thingy? Tajh Boyd was getting some love from the media after an out-of-this-world performance last week, but he had a rough outing tonight. You gotta believe Johnny Football has the inside track now with the numbers he threw up again today.
- Remember when Clemson dominated this rivalry? The ‘Ole Ball Coach has turned the table since packing his bags and moving to Columbia. The balance will likely remain that way as long as Spurrier keeps wearing the headset.
- If Marcus Lattimore can find his way back--100% healthy--the Gamecocks could be very, very dangerous next year. They'll have a seasoned QB and O-line in place to go along with a lot of other key personnel on both sides of the ball.
- Will Clemson ever be able to put it all together and get its talent aligned with performance on the field consistently? It has to be frustrating seeing the same thing year-after-year for Tiger fans.
By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball
- Make no mistake about it: the Gamecocks played like a Top Ten team. It's a shame that they won't play in a better bowl game.
- Tonight's action demonstrates that SEC defenses are playing at a much higher level than everyone else. The South Carolina front seven was in Tajh Boyd's face all night long, holding him to his worst performance of the season. That includes a game with Florida State, who boasted the nation's top defense, where Boyd threw 237 yards and three TDs.
- Ironically, the Gamecocks strong showing helped Johnny Manziel's Heisman candidacy.
- Speaking of the Heisman Trophy, watch out for Jadeveon Clowney next season. No one's figured out a way to block him yet.
- South Carolina won this contest by converting on third and fourth down. It was evident that Clemson didn't think it could stop the USC offense in the second half, causing Venables to use more blitzes late in the game.
- While Clowney clearly stole the show, the game ball should go to Dylan Thompson. Stepping in for an injured Connor Shaw, Thompson had a monster game, throwing for 315 yards and 3 TDs. More impressively, he made some big plays with his legs, including a backbreaking 20-yard scramble to put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
- Despite tonight's setback, Clemson has to be pleased with its results this season. Sure, they didn't win a conference championship, but the defense improved by leaps and bounds compared to last year.