For the first time since the first half of the Maryland game in September, the Tigers found a rushing attack, recording over 180 yards by game's end. The offensive line was solid at the point of attack, providing just enough daylight for James Davis and C.J. Spiller to keep South Carolina's defense on its heels. Also, QB Cullen Harper made several tough throws and managed the game perfectly, completing 12-of-17 passes for 199 yards, a touchdown and most importantly no interceptions. The Tigers also scored on a trick play, code-name "Cock-a-doodle-doo," to go ahead 17-0 in the second quarter. What else could you ask for playing your archrival with bowl hopes on the line?
Even though he was only sacked one time, the Tigers harassed South Carolina QB Chris Smelley all day, and by the time it was all said and done his four interceptions were the biggest reason the Tigers won as easily as they did. Credit defensive coordinator Vic Koenning for coming up with changes in his coverage schemes to keep the Gamecocks offense off-balance. Also credit the play of Clemson's secondary, which made big plays all afternoon long. South Carolina only had one true drive in the game, a quick scoring march to open the second half. Outside of that, the Tigers dominated their arch rival with outstanding defensive play.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
The usual automatic Mark Buchholz missed two field goals from 36 yards and 41 yards respectively, but he did connect from 22 yards out during a critical juncture in the first quarter. He also had one touchback as well. The real star on special teams however was senior punter Jimmy Maners, who flipped the field several times with booming punts, including a 54 yarder in the second quarter. The return game continues to leave much to be desired as Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller were held in check once again. Jamie Harper's blocked punt in the first quarter was also key early on as the Tigers have now blocked three punts in the last two games against the Gamecocks.
After a dismal offensive showing at Virginia last weekend, the Tigers turned it on big time Saturday against the Gamecocks. The defense was once again stout and the special teams were good enough to not be a liability. But the real story Saturday was the fact the Tigers smashed South Carolina in the mouth and the Gamecocks had no answer. Clemson was the more physical, better-prepared team and it showed in every phase of the game.
The Tigers saved their best game of the year for last, easily disposing of their archrival in a game that was never in doubt. Credit head coach Dabo Swinney for putting together a solid game plan Saturday while also cleaning up a huge mess that was a 3-3 team midway through the season. Once again Clemson proved to be the better team and that doesn't appear to be changing any time soon. Whether Lou Holtz or Steve Spurrier is roaming the sidelines of the garnet and black, it doesn't matter - the Tigers own South Carolina.
GRADES: Tigers Save Best for Last
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