Clemson holds off South Carolina 37-32, stays unbeaten

South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel tackles Clemson’s Deon Cain in Saturday’s game at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.
South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel tackles Clemson’s Deon Cain in Saturday’s game at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C. Getty Images

South Carolina’s football season is mercifully over and the best part of Clemson’s might be around the corner.

The Gamecocks gave their in-state rival a bit of a scare, trailing by as little as three points in the second half before falling 37-32 at Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday. South Carolina (3-9) gave a far better showing in this one than a week ago, when the Gamecocks lost to FCS member The Citadel.

Tailback Shon Carson carried an 11-yard pass into the end zone with a second left for South Carolina, completing a 51-yard touchdown drive for the final margin. The game ended with Clemson falling on an on-side kick attempt.

Clemson kept its unbeaten season alive at 12-0 heading into the Dec. 5 matchup with North Carolina in the ACC title game in Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium. But the Tigers looked less than dominant, which could potentially harm their seeding if they’re selected for the four-team playoff for the national championship.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson ran for touchdowns of five, three and 30 yards and threw a 55-yard completion to wide receiver Deon Cain for another.

Three who mattered

Watson: Aided by South Carolina’s inability to generate much pass-rush, Watson picked apart the Gamecocks on slant patterns.

Jordan Leggett: Clemson’s tight end is such a complement to the Tigers’ deep group of wide receivers.

Pharoh Cooper: His burst down the seam after the catch will be very attractive to NFL teams.


▪  There were an abundance of orange shirts in Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday, and who could blame Gamecocks fans for selling their tickets at the end of a miserable football season?

▪  Clemson-South Carolina played for the 107th consecutive year. That’s the second-longest such continuous rivalry in college football; Minnesota-Wisconsin is at 108 and counting.

▪  South Carolina ran an unorthodox punt formation with several players flanked far to the right of center. It had the effect of keeping Clemson from having a return man deep.

▪  Watson appeared to do the dab dance while celebrating a 5-yard touchdown run. That makes sense since he considers Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton a mentor.

▪  South Carolina settled for a short field goal at the end of the first half rather than go for a touchdown on fourth down. Perfectly reasonable, but you wondered if somewhere former coach Steve Spurrier threw his visor.

Worth mentioning

▪  South Carolina and Clemson jointly remembered the nine victims of the Emanuel church shootings in Charleston at halftime.

▪  Looks like Clemson needs to work on ball security at practice leading up to the ACC title game. The Tigers fumbled three times.

▪  South Carolina still hasn’t solved its struggles putting pressure on quarterbacks in the pocket.

They said it

“It isn’t easy to be undefeated on the road. That hasn’t happened (at Clemson) in 20 years.” – Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.

“They all know what later represents. Let’s don’t have any regrets. Let’s play.” – Swinney on his message to the players about the stakes that lie ahead.

“No. 4 was the best player in the game. It’s that simple.” – Swinney on quarterback Watson.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer