Confidence boost

Clemson's 30-10 victory at Wake Forest on Saturday accomplished a lot for the Tigers.

First, it broke a four-game road losing streak.

Second, it made the Tigers bowl eligible for a 12th consecutive season. But most of all, it boosted the psyche of a team that had lost five games by a combined total of 26 points.

"It's a great birthday present," said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who turned 41 on Saturday. "It was good to punch our (bowl) ticket today and get that secured."

The victory also had to enhance the security of quarterback Kyle Parker, who got a big confidence boost after completing 15 of 17 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

Parker set the tone for his day with an impressive first half, connecting on 12 of 14 passes, including a 40-yard touchdown toss to Jaron Brown with 46 seconds left in the half.

"Huge play," offensive coordinator Billy Napier said. "That's probably the play of the game.

"He's been playing some of his best ball lately. Today he was lights out and had a great day. He's growing up. He's just a second-year player. I'm proud of him and the way he responded."

The big day couldn't have come at a better time for Parker, who had been intercepted five times while throwing for just one touchdown in the Tigers' previous three games.

With arch-rival South Carolina heading to Clemson this Saturday for the annual showdown, the positive result was just what Parker needed heading into the season's final turn.


The Tigers' defense has allowed just one touchdown in six games, which is the second-longest streak of allowing one touchdown or less in school history -- the 1981 national championship team holds the record with seven. (Roy Philpott)
LOOKING GOOD: Clemson is 4-2 in its last six games, but the defense has been good enough for the team to be 6-0. The Tigers' defense has allowed just one touchdown in six games, which is the second-longest streak of allowing one touchdown or less in school history -- the 1981 national championship team holds the record with seven. Wake Forest was limited to 205 total yards and managed only 97 through three quarters.

"These guys have built a standard of excellence no matter where we play, who we play," defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. "They did that again today. We were very effective."

STILL NEEDS WORK: While Clemson's defense has been impressive overall, the Tigers have consistently displayed a disconcerting knack for allowing big third-down gains. Wake Forest converted on 7 of 17 third downs, with most resulting in big yardage. It may seem like nitpicking, but the Tigers will have to improve in that regard if they hope to slow down South Carolina's versatile offensive attack on Saturday.

LOOKING AHEAD: Anyone who thought the Gamecocks would suffer a letdown after pounding Florida to earn their first Southeastern Conference East Division title, shouldn't have been concerned.

The Gamecocks quickly dispatched Troy in their 69-24 home victory as they raced to a 56-7 halftime lead then emptied the bench in improving to 8-3 on the season.

It was a perfect scenario for coach Steve Spurrier as the blowout allowed him to rest his starters for the stretch run, which includes a road game against in-state rival Clemson, followed by a trip to Atlanta where it will take on Auburn in the SEC Championship game.

"It was good to get a bunch of turnovers," said Spurrier. "That is how you score a lot of points quickly. We started over there on their side of the field several times."


Marcus Lattimore rushed for 102 yards and three touchdowns on just seven carries before taking a seat in a romp over Troy Saturday afternoon in Columbia. (Getty Images)
The Gamecocks forced five Troy turnovers, including two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. The offense was stellar as well, as Marcus Lattimore rushed for 102 yards and three touchdowns on seven carries before taking a seat.

Quarterback Stephen Garcia was also impressive, completing 9 of 12 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns in his half of play, while wide receiver Alshon Jeffery hauled in five passes for 123 yards.

Freshman wide receiver Ace Sanders also got into the act, scoring his first two touchdowns of the season on two catches for 66 yards.

In addition to forcing turnovers, the defense limited Troy to 264 yards of total offense, with only 81 coming on the ground.

"We came in here and devised a plan to run Marcus Lattimore and have a lot of play-action passes, and it worked to perfection," Garcia said. "That is what we try to do every week and it was good to see, especially after a big win last week."

SOUTH CAROLINA INJURY UPDATE:CB Stephon Gilmore suffered a concussion in the first half and did not return. He is expected to play against Clemson on Saturday, but a final determination will be made later in the week.

* SPUR Damrio Jeffery suffered a quadriceps contusion to his right leg, but he is expected to play against Clemson.

* LT Jarriel King played as a reserve after missing the Florida game with a concussion. Junior Kyle Nunn earned his second straight start at the position.

* DE Chaz Sutton returned to action after missing four games with a broken hand. He was credited with a tackle and returned an interception 56 yards for a touchdown.

* CB Marty Markett, a junior walk-on, sprained his knee but managed to finish the game. USC coach Steve Spurrier is hopeful he will be ready to play against Clemson on Saturday. He has started the Gamecocks' past two games.

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