PALMETTO BLOWOUT: NO.2 CLEMSON WINS 5TH STRAIGHT OVER SOUTH CAROLINA, 56-35
- 2018-11-25 10:10:45
CLEMSON, SC – It seemed almost a foregone conclusion that No.2 Clemson would win its fifth straight Palmetto Bowl, and the only question was how ugly it would be. It wasn’t as bad as the odds-makers thought—the Tigers were favored by 26.5 points—but the Tigers quickly put the game to bed in the 3rd quarter, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions to double up the Gamecocks 42-21. The Tigers would indeed go on to win their fifth straight Palmetto Bowl by a score of 56-35. It's their longest win streak in the series since they won their seventh straight in 1940. Coincidentally, the Tigers also scored 56 against the Gamecocks two years ago, winning 56-7 in Death Valley on their way to a national title.
Saturday night was a bit of a wake-up call for the Tigers’ defense, which had been playing like the best unit in the nation for the last 6 games. As Dabo put it, “they got a dose of cough syrup.” The Tigers hadn’t allowed an offensive touchdown in their last two games and hadn’t allowed a first quarter touchdown all season long. Both of those trends went by the wayside, as the Gamecocks took their first possession right down the field for a touchdown. The Tigers had busted coverages in the secondary all night, and Jake Bentley finished with 510 yards, the most ever by a Gamecock quarterback against the Tigers. It would appear the third time is the charm, as Bentley had miserable outings in his first two meetings with the Tigers. Deebo Samuel missed this game last year with a broken leg, but he made up for it with 3 touchdowns and 210 reception yards. Offensive Coordinator Bryan McClendon and the Gamecocks brought the kitchen sink offensively, and it clearly confused the Tigers. It could end up being a blessing in disguise, though, because it exposed a vulnerability that didn’t seem existent before. It was very similar to the Pitt game two years ago, except the Tigers lost that game—their only loss en route to a national title and only home loss in the last four years. The Tigers were #2 in the nation in total defense coming into the game, allowing about 250 yards per game. The Gamecocks racked up exactly 600 yards against the Tigers with a couple scoring drives under a minute and another one that took 1:05. You can bet Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Alabama will be taking notes and try to replicate what no other offense has been able to do against Brent Venables and the Tigers this season.
As bad as they were on defense, however, the Tigers were even better on offense. The Tigers racked up 744 total yards of offense to go with their 56 points. Trevor Lawrence also set the record for most passing yards by a Clemson quarterback against the Gamecocks, completing 27-36 for a career-high 393 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He also had his longest run of 32 yards after posting his longest run last week of 19 yards. I asked Dabo last week if Trevor’s running could become a bigger part of the offense moving forward, and it looks like it will.
As good as the offense was, it could have been even better if not for some mistakes, especially in the first half. Justyn Ross dropped a touchdown, and Trevor Lawrence committed a fumble in Gamecock territory. Amari Rodgers had a touchdown negated for offensive pass interference that easily could have gone either way.
The running backs were outstanding, averaging 6.26 yards per carry and 6 touchdowns as a group. Adam Choice had the best game of his career with 3 touchdowns, and Etienne added 2, becoming the first Tiger with 18 and then 19 rush TD’s in a season. He came into the game tied with Wayne Gallman, James Davis and Lester Brown for the Clemson single season record. Lyn-J Dixon came into the game in the first half, suggesting the coaches are feeling more and more comfortable with the true freshman in critical situations. He came into the game leading the nation in yards per carry—the only player with over 10 yards per carry—so it’s hard to keep him on the sideline! In all, the Tigers rushed for 351 yards. Even Christian Wilkins got in the act, running the ball on consecutive plays in the Fridge package. He was stopped for the first time on 3rd down, but the Tigers gave him a mulligan with a toss sweep on 4th and one, and Wilkins would not be denied again in his final game in Death Valley.
Wilkins wasn’t the only senior with a big final home game. Hunter Renfrow’s status was questioned all week after coming down on his head in the first quarter last week, but the Clemson legend extended his school record for most starts by a receiver and also extended his record to 40 straight games with a catch. Renfrow made a couple enormous drive-extending catches and finished the night with 5 receptions for 80 yards. J.D. Davis got the start for Tre Lamar, who could have played but sat out with an injury, and he made his final home game count, coming up with his first career interception. He told me after the game that he really didn’t want to end his career without a pick, so to do it in his final game in Death Valley against the Gamecocks was incredibly special. The Tigers hadn’t produced a turnover in their last two games after 17 straight games with at least one turnover, and Davis’s interception was the only one of the game.
Tee Higgins also had a monster night with 6 catches for 142 yards and a touchdown, and the offensive line deserves a lot of credit as well. Not only did the Tigers rush for 351 yards, but they did not allow a sack for the fourth time in the last five games. In fact, they have allowed just one sack in those five games. John Simpson was helped off the field at one point but returned to the game and appears to be fine.
With the Palmetto Bowl win, Clemson has won 100 games in this decade, joining Alabama and Ohio State as the only programs to do so. The Tigers are 12-0 for the second time in the last four years and will set their sights on Pittsburgh for their fourth consecutive ACC Championship Game. Remarkably, it will be the Tigers’ fourth different Coastal Division opponent in the last four title games and fifth different opponent overall, having played Georgia Tech in 2009. It is illustrative of the incredible consistency Dabo has built over the years when there is so much parity across the board in college football.
Our usual Sunday teleconference with Dabo will be earlier this week due to the ACC Championship, so be sure to check in for that around 5:00. I’ll also have our teleconference with Pat Narduzzi for you, so stay tuned!
Clemson’s 744 yards were their most against South Carolina in series history, surpassing the 622 yards gained by Clemson in the 2016 contest. It ranks third in a single game in Clemson history, trailing 756 against Wake Forest in 1981 and 754 against NC State in 2012.
Clemson gained 393 passing yards and 351 rushing yards. It marked Clemson’s first time exceeding 300 yards in both categories in a single game since the 2017 season opener against Kent State. It was Clemson’s fourth such game under head coach Dabo Swinney (Duke in 2012, NC State in 2012, Kent State in 2017).
The game marked Clemson’s first time posting both 300 passing yards and 300 rushing yards against South Carolina in series history.
Clemson recorded a school-record three touchdown drives of 95 yards or more, scoring on drives of 95, 97 and 98 yards in the game. It marked Clemson’s first time posting multiple drives of 95 yards or more since recording two against Wake Forest on Oct. 7, 2006.
Clemson recorded a season-high 38 first downs, the second-most in school history and only two shy of the school record of 40 set against South Carolina in 2016.
Including the 744 yards gained against South Carolina, Clemson reached the 6,000-yard mark on the year to post the seventh 6,000-yard season in team history. All seven 6,000-yard campaigns have been posted under Swinney.
WIth 351 rushing yards on the day, Clemson reached 3,000 rushing yards in a season for the sixth time in school history. It marks the team's second 3,000-yard rushing season under Swinney (3,345 in 2015).
Clemson outrushed an opponent for the 11th time this season. The Tigers have now outrushed opponents in 22 of their 26 games since 2017 and are 22-0 when outrushing opponents in that time frame.
Clemson scored 27 or more points in a 12th straight game for the first time in school history, adding to its existing school record.
Clemson scored eight touchdowns to push its season total to 74. The 2018 squad now sits one touchdown shy of the 2016 Tigers (75) for the most total touchdowns in a season in school history.
During the contest, Clemson reached the 500-point mark on the year post the fifth 500-point season in school history. All five instances have come under Swinney.
Clemson opened the game with four consecutive touchdown drives. It marked Clemson’s first time accomplishing the feat on offense since Nov. 18, 2017 vs. The Citadel.
On its sixth rushing touchdown of the game, the 2018 Tigers broke the single-season school record for rushing touchdowns, surpassing the mark of 40 set in 2017. Clemson now has 42 rushing touchdowns this season.
The teams combined for 1,344 yards, the second-largest combined yardage total in Clemson history behind the 1,351 yards combined for by Clemson and NC State in 2012.
Clemson has now won seven consecutive games by 20 or more points for the first time in school history. The current streak of 20-point wins passes a six-game streak across the final five games of the 1989 season and the 1990 season opener.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 27-36 passes for a career-high 393 yards.
Lawrence also recorded the longest rush of his career on a 32-yard run in the second quarter.
Lawrence’s 393 passing yards are the most against South Carolina in series history, surpassing Deshaun Watson’s 347 passing yards in 2016.
The game was Lawrence’s third 300-yard passing performance of the season.
Lawrence has now eclipsed 250 passing yards in three consecutive games for the first time in his career.
With his passing touchdown, his 22nd of the season, Lawrence passed Woodrow Dantzler (21 in 2001) and Charlie Whitehurst (21 in 2003) for sole possession of seventh on the school's leaderboard for touchdown passes in a single season.
Running back Adam Choice rushed seven times for 56 yards with a career-high three rushing touchdowns. His six rushing touchdowns this season tie his single-season career high from 2017.
Wide receiver Tee Higgins caught his team-leading eighth receiving touchdown of the season on a 22-yard pass from Lawrence in the first quarter. It moved Higgins within one touchdown of Deon Cain’s school record for receiving touchdowns by a sophomore (nine).
Higgins’ eighth receiving touchdown of the year tied him for eighth-most receiving touchdowns in a season in school history.
Higgins finished the game with six receptions for 142 yards, his fourth career 100-yard receiving game.
Higgins’ first-quarter touchdown was the culmination of a 95-yard scoring drive, temporarily tying for Clemson’s longest of the season (95 yards vs. Furman).
Clemson eclipsed that mark on its following possession, culminating a 12-play, 97-yard scoring drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown by defensive lineman Christian Wilkins.
The 97-yard drive was Clemson’s longest in its 116-game all-time series against South Carolina. It would later be surpassed by a 98-yard drive later in the contest.
Clemson recorded five touchdown drives of 10 plays or more, the team’s first game with at least four touchdown drives of 10 plays or more since the 2015 ACC Championship Game against North Carolina.
The rushing touchdown was Wilkins’ second of the year. Earlier in the season, he became the first Clemson defensive lineman to rush for a touchdown in the two-platoon era. Now, Clemson defensive linemen have rushed for three touchdowns through 12 games this season (two by Wilkins, one by Dexter Lawrence).
Wilkins also recorded a sack in the contest, pushing his season total to 5.0 and his career total to 15.0. He has now recorded at least half a sack in each of Clemson’s last four games.
Running back Travis Etienne rushed a career-high 28 times for 150 yards with two rushing touchdowns.
Etienne has now posted only the fourth 1,300-yard rushing season in school history, joining Wayne Gallman in 2015 and Raymond Priester in both 1995 and 1996.
Etienne pushed his season total in rushing yards to 1,307, which now sits fourth on the school's leaderboard for rushing yards in a single season.
During the contest, Etienne reached 2,000 rushing yards for his career.
Etienne scored his 31st and 32nd career rushing touchdowns, tying C.J. Spiller (32 from 2006-09) for fifth on the school's leaderboard for career rushing touchdowns.
Etienne (33) moved into sixth on the school's leaderboard for total touchdowns in a career.
The game was Etienne’s sixth 100-yard rushing performance of the season and the seventh of his career. Clemson now holds a 38-2 record when producing a 100-yard rusher since 2011.
On a two-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter, Etienne broke Clemson's record for rushing touchdowns in a single season with his 18th of the year. He entered the game tied for the mark with Lester Brown (1978), James Davis (2006) and Wayne Gallman (2016).
On a 22-yard reception on third down on Clemson’s opening drive, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow extended his school-record streak of consecutive games with a reception to 40.
On the play, Renfrow became the 13th player in school history to reach 2,000 career receiving yards.
Renfrow caught five passes to pass Mike Williams (177 from 2013-16) for fifth on the school's leaderboard for career receptions.
Running back Tavien Feaster scored his sixth rushing touchdown of the season on a 13-yard run in the third quarter.
Clemson held South Carolina without a sack and has now allowed only one sack in its last five games.
Clemson allowed a touchdown on South Carolina’s opening drive, marking the first touchdown allowed by the Clemson defense in the first quarter this season. The lone first-quarter touchdown allowed by Clemson prior to the contest came via punt return at Boston College.
Prior to the score, Clemson had not surrendered a touchdown on defense in the previous eight quarters. Clemson's defense had not allowed a touchdown when the score of a game had been within 14 points since the fourth quarter of the Syracuse game, a total span of 24 quarters.
Defensive end Austin Bryant recorded his sixth sack of the season, dropping South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley for a seven-yard loss in the first quarter.
Linebacker J.D. Davis made his second start of the season and recorded his first career interception in the second quarter.
Defensive tackle Albert Huggins added a sack in the fourth quarter.
Kicker Greg Huegel made his 45th career start at kicker to become only the fourth kicker in school history to start 45 times in a career (52, Chandler Catanzaro; 47, Aaron Hunt; 46, Nelson Welch).
Huegel went 8-8 on PATs, and on his eighth PAT, he tied Chandler Catanzaro’s school record of 203 career PATs.
Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins played his 56th career game to tie Dorian O'Daniel (2014-17) for second-most in school history. He is now one game shy of tying fullback Chad Diehl's school record of 57 games played from 2007-11.
Clemson’s captains for the game were tackle Mitch Hyatt, linebacker Kendall Joseph, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins.
WITH THE WIN
Clemson completed its seventh undefeated regular season in school history, joining the 1900 (6-0), 1906 (4-0-3), 1948 (10-0), 1950 (8-0-1), 1981 (11-0) and 2015 (12-0) Clemson squads. This year marks Clemson's fifth time finishing a regular season with without any losses or ties.
Clemson opened a season 12-0 for only the third time, joining a 12-0 record in all 12 games of the 1981 season and a 12-0 mark in the first 12 games of 2015.
Clemson won the first 12 games of a season for the second time under head coach Dabo Swinney (2015). Swinney became the first coach in Clemson history to coach the school to multiple 12-0 starts, as Danny Ford accomplished the feat once during Clemson's 1981 National Championship campaign.
The 2018 Tigers have now tied the 1981 and 2017 squads for the third-most wins in a season in school history.
Clemson won its 12th straight game, which represents sole possession of the fifth-longest winning streak in team history.
Clemson won its 52nd game in the last four years, adding to existing school and ACC records for wins held by Clemson's 2018 senior class.
Clemson's 2018 senior class improved upon its current .927 winning percentage since 2015, which far outpaces the school record set by the 2017 seniors (.877, 50-7). The 2018 senior class is attempting to become the first in school history to field a winning percentage of .900 or better.
Clemson earned its 100th win of the decade, reaching the century mark in wins in a decade for the first time in school history. Clemson’s 100-22 record in the 2010s already represents the winningest decade in Clemson history, far surpassing the 87-25-4 mark set in the 1980s. Clemson joined Alabama and Ohio State as the only FBS schools to win 100 games this decade.
Clemson improved to 70-42-4 all-time against South Carolina. Clemson's 70 all-time wins against South Carolina are the program's most against any opponent.
Clemson has now recorded five consecutive wins against South Carolina for the first time since a seven-game streak from 1934-40. That seven-game streak stands as the longest winning streak in the series by either team.
Clemson's 2018 senior class became the 13th class in school history to defeat South Carolina in four consecutive seasons, joining the 1900, 1919, 1930, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1983, 1991, 2000 and 2005 and 2017 seniors.
Clemson improved to 19-10-1 all-time against South Carolina at home.
Clemson won a third straight home game against South Carolina for the first time since defeating the Gamecocks at Death Valley four straight times from 1998-2004.
Swinney improved to 6-5 all-time against South Carolina and became the first Clemson coach with wins against the Gamecocks in five straight years since Jess Neely accomplished the feat in his final six games in the series from 1934-39.
Swinney became the fifth coach in Clemson history to defeat South Carolina six times, joining Frank Howard (13), Danny Ford (7), Tommy Bowden (7) and Jess Neely (6).
Clemson won its 10th consecutive November game, dating back to 2015. It marks the program's longest November winning streak since winning 13 straight in the 11th month of the year across the 1988-92 seasons.
Clemson won its 15th consecutive game at Memorial Stadium, dating back to a 56-7 win against South Carolina on Nov. 25, 2016. The 15-game streak tied the second-longest home winning streak in Swinney’s tenure as head coach, trailing a 21-game home winning streak from 2013-16.
Clemson finished the season 7-0 at home. It marked Clemson's sixth time in school history winning seven home games in a single season, including 1987 (7-1), 2011 (7-0), 2014 (7-0), 2015 (7-0) and 2017 (7-0).
Clemson has now gone undefeated at home in back-to-back years for the first time since 2014-15.
Clemson's senior class improved to 28-1 at Death Valley to tie the 2017 seniors for the best home record in school history.
Swinney earned his 113th career victory to tie Frank Beamer (113) for third-most career wins as head coach of an ACC program. (Note: Beamer's figure reflects his 113 wins after Virginia Tech joined the ACC as a member institution, excluding his victories as an independent or as a member of other conferences).
Clemson led, 28-21, at halftime and has now won 63 of its last 65 games when leading at halftime.
Clemson held a 42-21 advantage after three quarters and is now 83-2 since 2011 when leading after three quarters.
Clemson broke the 200-yard mark both rushing and passing and has now posted a perfect 40-0 record when both passing and rushing for at least 200 yards under Swinney.
Clemson is now 53-1 when rushing for at least 200 yards under Swinney.
Never miss the latest news from CUTigers!
Join our free email list