In many ways, this game was more dominant than the 63-17 woodshed the Tigers laid on the Gamecocks last year. The difference this year was that Clemson kicked field goals instead of getting touchdowns and the Tigers ran the ball more (which chewed up more clock) this year.
Here is how I graded the Tigers on my 5 keys:
1. One Trick Ponies
Everybody felt like Airese Currie and Troy Williamson would get their catches. The key was going to be who stepped up for these teams other than their playmakers.
Currie finished the day with only one catch for 16 yards and Williamson grabbed only three balls for 26 yards. Both teams did a good job in shutting down the playmaker for the other team, and the stars never really got off the ground for either program.
Clemson had other players step up, most notably Reggie Merriweather (28 carries for 125 yards) and Chansi Stuckey (seven catches for 74 yards). The Gamecocks had little production from anybody, especially if you throw out the 54 yards Hail Mary to Cory Boyd in the 2nd quarter.
Clemson certainly proved to be more versatile, running the ball on the Gamecocks with more effectivenewss than they have against anybody this year. And the Gamecocks simply had no answers offensively, looking as bad as any team has all year against Clemson.
2. Middle of the Pack
Clemson never really tired to attack the middle of the field with the tight end like Florida had done the week before. But Clemson did run the crossing routes to Chansi Stuckey to perfection Saturday to pick up key first downs in critical situations.
Clemson also stuck it to the Gamecocks in the running game between the tackles, attacking the area where the Gamecocks have been the most vulnerable.
It was a good game plan that was executed to almost perfection on offense, but it was not what many had envisioned when we talked about taking over the middle of the field. I'll take the results nonetheless.
3. Force The Pass
One thing summarized this game more than any one statement. South Carolina simply could not run the football. The Clemson defensive line thoroughly whipped the Gamecock offensive line, never allowing the South Carolina runners any room to run the football.
Demetris Summers and Cory Boyd combined for 34 yards Saturday. Syvelle Newton was South Carolina's leading rusher, and he only managed 30 yards on 10 carries.
All of which forced the Gamecocks into throwing the ball, something that they are not very good at. South Carolina quarterbacks combined for 9 completions on 27 attempts for 131 yards. If you take the 54 yard Hail Mary from Newton to Boyd out of the equation, the Gamecock quarterbacks only threw for on 77 yards.
Clemson forced the Gamecocks to throw by taking away the run, and the results were just what John Lovette and his staff thought would happen. A bad day through the air for the Gamecocks.
4. Long Field
South Carolina never had a chance in the first half as Clemson pinned the Gamecocks inside their 20 yard line most of the half while getting great field position themselves to capitalize on some easy points early.
In the first half, Clemson's scoring drives were from 9 yards and 58 yards. In the 2nd half, the Tigers an 80 yard drive to start the 3rd quarter, but the other scoring drives in the 2nd half were from 40 yards, 5 yards, and 47 yards.
The turnovers hurt the Gamecocks. The ability for Clemson to pick up first downs to keep the field position was critical. And the special teams kicks, punts, and coverage's were all outstanding.
When you are struggling on offense, field position is so critical to your success. And Clemson could not have scripted a better scenario in terms of field position that it created Saturday.
5. Pounce Early
The opening kickoff set the tone for the entire game as David Dunham laid a massive hit on Cory Boyd, who fumbled and the Tigers recovered. Clemson was on top of the Gamecocks with less than 10 seconds off the clock.
To the Gamecocks credit, even falling behind 14-0 did not mean the end was immanent. After Newton hit Boyd on the 54 yard touchdown pass, the Gamecocks pulled to within seven points at the half.
But it was the 80 yard drive that started the 3rd quarter that proved to be the death blow to the Gamecocks as the Tigers ran and threw the length of the field to go up 20-7. It was at that point that the game was over, and the Gamecock players quit.
Stay tuned to CUTigers.com in the coming days as I offer more thoughts on the fight at the end of the game as well as Clemson's bowl situation.
Grading Saturday's Win
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