No. 18 South Carolina 29, Clemson 7

Steve Spurrier has already led South Carolina to a landmark

season – and there’s still so much left for the Gamecocks to

accomplish.

Stephen Garcia threw for two touchdowns, Alshon Jeffery had his

seventh 100-yard receiving game this year and South Carolina headed

into the Southeastern Conference title game with a rousing 29-7

victory over rival Clemson on Saturday night.

”We’ve done some firsts this year,” said Spurrier, in his

sixth-year as South Carolina’s coach. ”There’s another first out

there we’re going to try to do next.”

The Gamecocks have finished with a flourish. They won at Florida

for the first time to win the SEC East, scored the most points in

Spurrier’s tenure against Troy, then won back-to-back games in the

Palmetto State’s defining rivalry for the first time since

1968-70.

Spurrier won six SEC crowns at Florida from 1990-2001 and has

longed to return to the Georgia Dome with the Gamecocks. He’ll get

that chance next week against No. 2 Auburn.

”The mental attitude has really changed since Arkansas,” a

41-20 defeat three weeks ago, Spurrier said.

That showed at Death Valley.

Despite giving up a 45-yard touchdown pass to Clemson’s DeAndre

Hopkins, South Carolina recovered to hold the Tigers scoreless the

game’s last 58 minutes.

Jeffery finished with five catches for 141 yards had a 37-yard

score, Spencer Lanning had three field goals and Antonio Allen had

the defense’s third score in the past two weeks with a 37-yard

interception return.

”Man, this is a great win,” Jeffery said. ”Something we can

take off and just build from it.”

The Gamecocks (9-3) have only won nine games twice before in 117

seasons of football, going 10-2 in 1984 and 9-3 in 2001. And their

passing game, led by Garcia and star wideout Jeffery, gave Auburn’s

secondary something to worry for next week.

”We’re confident, but we’ve got to stay focused and learn from

the last time we played,” Jeffery said.

That was back on Sept. 25 when South Carolina led 27-21 entering

the fourth quarter at Auburn, yet fell 35-27 in what would become a

season of Tigers comebacks.

Garcia was yanked in favor of backup Connor Shaw, who was

intercepted twice when the driving the Gamecocks for a tying

score.

Asked what he remembered about the benching, Garcia said ”I

kind of forgot about that right after the game.”

Clemson (6-6) was held to 155 yards through three quarters while

the game was still in reach.

”To lose to USC is very unacceptable,” Tigers coach Dabo

Swinney said. ”Our future is bright, but it’s awful dark right

now.”

A year ago, it was Clemson with bigger things down the road as

it brought its ACC Atlantic title into the season-ending rivalry.

The Tigers, though, fell in that contest 34-17.

Clemson fans filled sold-out Death Valley on Saturday, hoping

the same might happen to the Gamecocks. Instead, Jeffery and South

Carolina proved quickly they were focused on this game.

Trailing 7-3, the Gamecocks’ Brian Maddox pounced on a ball that

got away from Clemson’s punter Dawson Zimmerman. Garcia threw a

simple screen to fullback Patrick DiMarco on the next play to put

the Gamecocks ahead for good.

Jeffery struck for catches of 39 and 37 yards, the last a

beautiful post route for a touchdown. It was the first time in

seven games Clemson’s defense had surrendered two TDs in a

game.

South Carolina and Jeffery weren’t through. He added a 33-yard

catch a series later that ended with Lanning’s second field

goal.

Jeffery’s best reception may have been one out of bounds in the

third quarter after he tipped up a long pass between two defenders

and lunged for the catch that didn’t count.

Garcia was 14 of 30 for 227 yards.

Clemson, meanwhile, suffered through the offensive problems that

have plagued it the past month.

The Tigers managed 39 yards of offense after Hopkins’ touchdown

less than two minutes into the game.

Swinney even brought in injured Andre Ellington, the team’s

leading rusher who’s been out since Oct. 30 with foot problems, for

a spell. But he didn’t gain any ground, either.

It was a bad end for quarterback Kyle Parker, Clemson’s

two-sport star who gave up $800,000 in additional money from the

Colorado Rockies to play one last season for the Tigers.

Just a sophomore, he had a solo run down Death Valley’s hill on

Senior Night because he previously announced he wouldn’t

return.

But Parker got an earlier exit than expected after Antonio Allen

returned an interception 36 yards for a touchdown in the third

quarter. Backup Tajh Boyd took over for Parker, who threw 20

touchdowns a year ago.

Parker was 7 of 17 for 117 yards. He didn’t stick around to

answer questions, leaving some to wonder if he’d stick around the

team at all with just a lower-tier bowl game ahead.

”I always want the best for Kyle,” Boyd said. ”I wish he

could have finished his last game here, but I think everything

happens for a reason.”