The No. 10 South Carolina Gamecocks won their 18th consecutive home game Saturday with a 31-17 victory over the No. 6 Clemson Tigers in the 2013 edition of The Palmetto Bowl from Williams-Brice Stadium.
South Carolina has now won five-straight in a rivalry that dates back to 1896:
Quarterback Connor Shaw was the star of the show, as the senior threw for 152 yards with one touchdown and ran the ball for 94 yards with one score.
Clemson's Tajh Boyd struggled in the face of Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of South Carolina's pass-rushers. The senior quarterback was limited to an 19-of-27 output for 225 yards and two interceptions, though he did run for a touchdown.
As a whole, the Tigers committed six turnovers in the humbling defeat.
Fans knew this one would be crazy from the start. Clemson took the ball first and drove 46 yards down the field, but a trick play resulted in wide receiver Sammy Watkins throwing an interception—not something Tigers fans are used to seeing from their star receiver.
South Carolina took the ball next and ran 8:13 off the clock on 17 plays before Shaw found the end zone on a three-yard run.
Down seven with 4:23 to go in the first quarter, Boyd needed just four plays to knot the game up at seven. Boyd rushed eight yards for the tying score, but the highlight of the drive was a 57-yard connection from Boyd to Watkins, who apparently resumed normal responsibilities at wide receiver:
Shaw quickly broke the tie early in the second quarter as he found sophomore receiver Shaq Roland for a nine-yard touchdown:
Boyd and the Tigers failed to get anything going on their next drive, which allowed the Gamecocks to take over after a Clemson three-and-out early in the second quarter. This time South Carolina went on another lengthy drive, eating 5:06 off the clock before settling for a 21-yard field goal from Elliott Fry to give them a 17-7 lead.
Clemson was stifled once again on their next drive. Boyd was sacked on back-to-back plays, first by Kelcy Quarles and then by Clowney:
After a South Carolina punt, Boyd and the Tigers offense took the field one final time in the first half and settled for a 38-yard field goal from Chandler Catanzaro to make it a one-score game.
The Gamecocks started with the ball in the second half, going for it on 4th-and-1 on the Clemson 19 rather than play it safe with a field goal. Unfortunately for South Carolina, Shaw was stuffed, giving the ball back to the Tigers.
Both sides then exchanged punts before things got interesting. Clemson pulled off a South Carolina-esque drive, culminating in a four-yard score for senior running back Roderick McDowell that tied the game:
Not to be deterred, 11 plays and 74 yards later, sophomore running back Mike Davis rumbled into the end zone to make it a 24-17 South Carolina advantage.
Things unraveled rapidly for the Tigers from there. Boyd fumbled on Clemson's next drive and was poised to get the ball back after a South Carolina punt. One problem—junior receiver Adam Humphries fumbled the return, and the Gamecocks recovered.
The Gamecocks then needed just three plays and a little trickery to extend their lead. Freshman wide receiver Pharoh Cooper hit running back Brandon Wilds to make it a 31-17 game:
Clemson's next drive lasted just one play as Boyd forced a throw into coverage and was intercepted, effectively ending the game. Clemson did get the ball back late, but Boyd coughed up his second interception of the game to seal the deal for South Carolina.
Key Player Grades
Tajh Boyd, Clemson Tigers: C
Boyd's numbers certainly will not win him the Heisman or further his draft stock, but there's something to be said for his versatility in the loss.
The senior was effective both on the ground and through the air for the majority of the game against a team he has struggled against as a starter.
When it mattered most, though, Boyd made a pair of costly turnovers.
Connor Shaw, South Carolina Gamecocks: A
Shaw was the best quarterback on the field Saturday thanks to his prowess as a runner. Not only did he lead the team in rushing, he was smart with the football and did not throw an interception.
Heck, Shaw could not even be stopped by the officials during his impressive night:
Simply put, Shaw put the Gamecocks on his back.
Roderick McDowell, Clemson Tigers: B
McDowell had himself a nice outing with 14 carries for 111 yards. He also had one score, which tied the game up in the third quarter.
While South Carolina got nothing from its running backs, McDowell was consistent enough for Clemson to field a balanced offense. In a game full of lengthy drives, that was exactly what the Tigers needed.
Sammy Watkins, Clemson Tigers: B
Watkins was as advertised.
His early interception is on the coaching staff, not on a receiver sure to be taken in the early rounds of the 2014 NFL draft should he declare.
Watkins finished with seven receptions for 93 yards and one score, shining bright in a tough Tigers loss.
Clemson drops to 10-2 on the year and must anxiously await the next batch of BCS rankings. It will also watch from home as Florida State and Duke play in the ACC Championship.
South Carolina moves to 10-2 and must also await the BCS rankings to see how things shake out, especially after a wild weekend where the No. 1 team in the land was upset.