Each team’s first drive failed because of avoidable plays. The Gamecocks had a rare home delay of game penalty on fourth-and-1 to force a punt. Clemson put together an excellent drive until a failed trick pass on second-and-6 set the Tigers back eight yards and effectively ended the drive.
Spiers pinned the Gamecocks on the one-yard line, and Jake Bentley charitably threw a pick-six to Ryan Carter. The shortest pick-six in Clemson’s history put the Tigers up 7-0 in the middle of the first quarter.
Both teams failed to put together a meaningful drive until a South Carolina punt ended in offsetting personal fouls. Tee Higgins hauled in a 24-yard catch across the middle on third-and-10 to keep Clemson’s drive alive.
The defensive holding penalty on that play was declined, but the Gamecocks committed two more penalties before the drive ended. Rashad Fenton’s defensive pass interference gifted Clemson 15 free yards, while Skai Moore’s egregious late hit on Kelly Bryant at the ten-yard line gave Clemson four more yards.
After the Gamecock fans threw trash down on the field, Tavien Feaster’s one-yard rushing touchdown gave Clemson a 14-0 lead with 8:12 in the second quarter.
Another Clemson drive was sparked by another long Tee Higgins catch. The Tennessee native’s 40-yard catch led to a touchdown pass from Bryant to Renfrow on the same play that won the national championship.
Dabo Swinney was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty assessed on the kickoff and Alex Spence’s point after attempt bounced off the upright, giving Clemson a 20-0 lead with 1:59 left in the first half. The cause for Swinney’s penalty is unclear.
Clemson’s last drive was fruitless, but Kelly Bryant was lucky when a defender dropped the tipped pass he threw as he was hit.
- Near the end of the first quarter, Chris Lammons muffed Spiers’ 57-yard punt, but recovered his own fumble.
- Offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct fouls were assessed on TJ Chase and OrTre Smith after a punt return with 10:58 left in the first half.
- Fans started to throw trash at Clemson players before the game, this continued throughout the first half.
Kelly Bryant’s accuracy has significantly improved. He is connecting on both the deep balls and the routine throws. The defense is harassing Jake Bentley and preventing the Gamecocks from settling into a rhythm.
Clemson is also doing a good job of staying focused and ignoring the hostile welcome from both players and fans.
Areas for Improvement:
While this is hardly an “area for improvement”, Clemson could use Etienne and Feaster more in the offensive game plan in the second half. The two combined for nine touches out of 39 plays in the first half.
Path to Victory:
South Carolina could try to bait Clemson into participating in a fight (like 2004) so that they will forfeit the playoffs. Ignore the hostile environment, don’t take the foot off the gas pedal, feed TNT the ball, and close out the game with a fourth straight win.