For decades when Clemson entered its match-up with South Carolina the Tigers always seemed to have a mental edge over the Gamecocks. Clemson knew no matter which team was better, they would win when the two teams met in late December.
The tides may be turning.
With South Carolina's convincing 34-13 win over its rival Saturday night, the Gamecocks have now won three in a row over Clemson for the first time since 1968-70. If that was not enough for Gamecock fans to crow about, the Gamecocks have simply dominated all three match-ups. The Gamecocks have outscored the Tigers 97-37 and outgained Clemson 1130 to 664. Saturday's game provided the biggest dominance in yardage with Carolina amassing 420 yards to Clemson's 153.
"We were hoping to play our best game of the year and we probably did," Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said following the game. "Defense was sensational all night; great effort. Offensively we did enough good things here and there to run for (210) yards and pass for the exact (same) amount."
Carolina used a formula similar to the one it used in 2009's victory; suffocate the Clemson offense and run it down the throat of the Clemson offense.
In 2009 Carolina rushed for 233 yards and limited Clemson to just 260 yards, much of which came in the final quarter with the game well in hand. Saturday the Gamecocks did it all night, rushing for the 210 yards and the defense stayed in the face of Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd all night long, sacking the Tiger quarterback five times and hurrying him an additional seven times.
"The results (on offense) are good," Spurrier said. "We have a good defense. Certainly running more than throwing is what you should do. That's what we've been trying to do."
All five Gamecock sacks came from the defensive line and four of the seven hurries were from the front four.
"That was huge," Carolina assistant head coach Ellis Johnson said. "We mixed. We brought four, and we did pressure a little bit. We had success with four. He (Boyd) was escaping the pocket a little bit, but we brought some pressure to try and keep him hemmed up. Most of it was done by our front four."
Senior defensive end Melvin Ingram had two sacks, while Devin Taylor, Travian Robertson, and Jadeveon Clowney all had one.
"Our coach (Brad Lawing) just told us to get to the football," Ingram said. "He looked us all in the eye during the first quarter and told us to just be relentless to get to the quarterback, so we just all huddled around each other and said we have to be relentless and get there."
The 153 yards given up was a season-low by far and the 13 points tied a season low in last week's loss to N.C. State. For an offense that looked unstoppable for the first eight weeks of the season, it has certainly fallen on hard times the last two weeks.
"A team with as high potent an offense as Clemson has or used to have – they struggled the last two games, but were very impressive early in the season – it was very good to see our guys have another excellent defensive game," Spurrier said.
Offensive the Gamecocks were just as dominant. Sophomore Connor Shaw looked like a young Donovan McNabb against the Clemson defense. Shaw completed 14-of-20 passes for 210 yards and three scores, and carried the ball 19 times for 129 yards and a score.
"Defensively, the quarterback beat us, and that is the most disappointing thing to me coming out of this game," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "We let the quarterback beat us. We knew exactly what they were going to do, and we couldn't stop it. I congratulate South Carolina. They played really well and did what they had to do and made the critical plays that we didn't."
Kenny Miles, who possibly played in his final home game as a Gamecock, was special. Miles carried the ball 21 times for 71 yards, including a nice 28-yard run early in the game.
"I'm just glad we beat Clemson," Wilds said. "Our offensive line played well, and I was excited. I really played hard for my folks, and it was exciting. It was a big game."
Spurrier, who after the game ran to the head official and grabbed the game ball, did it for two reasons.
"The ref was walking off with it," Spurrier said. "I said I might as well go grab it. Nobody else seemed to want it. I like to fix them up. The 10 wins. It's neat to beat Clemson because historically they've owned South Carolina, but they don't own us right now, that's for sure."
When the Gamecocks travel to Death Valley next year they will have the opportunity to win four in a row over the Tigers, something it has only done once in the history of the rivalry, 1951-54. For the seniors, who have beaten Clemson three out of four years, the rivalry ends for them as a player. However, they will never forget that they accomplished something that no Carolina team has done in their lifetime, beat the Tigers three times in a row.
"No matter how many years down the road it is, we can always remember that we beat Clemson three times in a row," Ingram said. "We can always say when we were here that we owned the state of South Carolina in football."
After Saturday night, the tide has turned indeed.
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