Any notion that USC is closing ground on Clemson will have to wait another year for validity. The 3rd ranked Tigers’ 8th ranked defense made for another miserable night for Jake Bentley and the Gamecock offense in a 34-10 victory Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Tigers’ fourth straight win in the series and one that could propel them to #1 the CFP ranking Tuesday night.
The Tigers intercepted Bentley twice with Ryan Carter returning the first one 12 yards for the game’s first score with 6:06 left in the first quarter. And the rout was on from there.
Clemson added a pair of offensive touchdowns in the second quarter for a 20-0 halftime lead. Hunter Renfrow’s 61 yard catch and run for a touchdown on the first play of the second half made it 27-0 and it wasn’t long after that the buildup of tail lights on Bluff Road and George Rodgers Boulevard started. It was Renfrow’s second touchdown catch of the game.
Travis Etienne added a touchdown run late in the third quarter for a 34-0 Clemson lead, and the only thing in doubt was if the Gamecocks would avoid the shutout.
They did that with a fourth quarter 40-yard Parker White field goal. Bentley later hit Bryan Edwards for a 38 yard touchdown to account for the final total.
USC managed just 207 yards, a low under Muschamp, besting the previous low of 218 yards against Clemson last season. Bentley managed only 126 passing yards with no help from a running game that totaled just 81 yards.
Kelly Bryant played a steady game in directing the Clemson offense until the fourth quarter when Hunter Johnson and Zerrick Cooper finished up. He was never rattled by the Gamecock defense in passing for 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns He also rushed for 26 yards.
No one back really stood out as the Tigers rushed for 181 yards. It was more of a grind it out approach with Kelly’s 13 yard run the longest of the night.
Another who shined for Clemson’s offense was freshman receiver Tee Higgins. The 6-5 Higgins used his height to go over shorter Gamecock corners for 84 yards on 3 catches, including one of 28 yards. He has nine catches for the last two games.
Gamecock linebacker Skai Moore, playing his final home game, finished with a career high 15 tackles, and leaves him in good position with the bowl game to come to finish as USC’s leading tackler for a four season, which would be a school first.
USC played most of the game without leading rusher AJ Turner who suffered a high ankle sprain in the first quarter. Clemson linebacker JD Davis suffered slight knee injury in the first quarter and did not return.
It’s hard to ignore Clemson’s recent run of dominance against the Gamecocks who haven’t led in a game against the Tigers since the first quarter in 2014. Will Muschamp has suffered 11 losses in his time at USC. In the nine games NOT against Clemson, the average margin of defeat was 10.5 points. In the two games AGAINST the Tigers, the average margin of defeat was 36.5 points.
Clemson now leads the series 69-42-4. It also was a milestone win for Dabo Swinney, his 100th as the Tigers’ head coach.
Clemson improves to 11-1 and will face Miami next week in Charlotte for the ACC Championship. USC is 8-4 and awaits word on its bowl assignment.
And Muschamp said he’s going recruiting Sunday knowing much more talent is needed to be able to play with nationally elite teams like Clemson.
Will Muschamp post game press conference
Dabo Swinney post game press conference
Kelly Bryant on TD pass to Renfrow to open 2nd half
Brent Venables on the pressure they put on Bentley
Ryan Carter talks about how they dealt with the game’s emotions
Jake Bentley & Bryan Edwards discuss the loss
Skai Moore on the Gamecocks’ emotional level
Here’s our Periscope game recap
— SportsTalk (@sportstalksc) November 26, 2017