GRADES: This one hurts

CLEMSON - There's no pretty way to spin what happened in Death Valley Saturday night - it was as ugly a loss as you'll find in the history of the rivalry. At least from the Clemson perspective.

Less than two minutes into the game, Clemson stormed down the field courtesy of a couple of completions to DeAndre Hopkins. In four plays, Clemson took an early 7-0 lead thanks to a 45 yard touchdown pass to Hopkins on his way to a seven catch 120-plus yard performance. After that, the Tigers never mounted another serious threat. Seriously. Kyle Parker threw a pick-six and Clemson never got close enough to again to even think about a field goal attempt. The only good news of the night was Hopkins and the fact Tajh Boyd received the rest of the snaps after Parker's interception. Dropped passes, missed assignments and poor decisions highlighted another lackluster performance by a unit that never got in gear after an overtime loss at Auburn way back in week three.

The odd thing about Saturday night's game, Clemson was able to keep Marcus Lattimore in check (23 carries for 48 yards in addition to 5 receptions for 41 yards). However when it came to Alshon Jeffrey it was an entirely different story. Jeffrey recorded four catches for 125 yards and a touchdown, in the first half. Kevin Steele's unit gave up 22 points, six of which came after a high snap gave the Gamecocks the ball at the Tigers' five-yard line. Unfortunately, Clemson's vaunted pass-rush was non-existent as Stephen Garcia made every right read in passing for over 200 yards in the first half. Not a bad performance overall but there was no answer, ever, for Jeffrey.

The high snap alone nets a failing grade. Simply put, it should never happen. Outside of that, Clemson's special teams weren't really a factor in any way, shape or form. Marcus Gilchrist had one long return but the bad snap was a clear momentum changer - in the worst way imaginable.

While the final score doesn't reveal it, Clemson's defense played well enough to at least make it a fourth quarter game. The offense, however, was a completely different story. Again there were passes dropped, poor throws made and an overall lack of identity. Ask yourself this question: with the game on the line and Clemson needing to find a way to make a play to keep the chains moving - what can it count on? In 2010 the answer was "nothing." The loss of Andre Ellington was unquestionably huge, and perhaps that had a bigger impact on the season than anybody wants to admit. At the same time, it's clear looking back Clemson's offense this season couldn't get out of it owns way. The end result is a disappointing 6-6 record, just one year removed from playing for the ACC Championship.

It was a loss - an embarrassing loss at that. No matter how you try to spin it the scoreboard says it all: South Carolina 29 Clemson 7. The setback was simply a microcosm of the entire season as costly mistakes, a lack of identity of offense and a handful of plays you wish Clemson had back all helped pave the way for another Tiger loss. In reality, this team probably isn't that far away from getting back to where it was a year ago considering the number of close losses this season, but a second consecutive defeat at the hands of your arch rival for the first time in 40 years makes it awfully hard believe that statement. Top Stories