Clemson sick after 34-13 loss to South Carolina

Losing to South Carolina for the third time in four tries made

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney sick to his stomach. The only thing that

helps the queasiness is getting to play for the Atlantic Coast

Conference championship again.

The No. 18 Tigers (9-3) lost 34-13 on Saturday night to the

14th-ranked Gamecocks (10-2), dropping their third in a row to

their in-state rivals for the first time since 1968-70.

A South Carolina team that averaged 278 yards in its final four

Southeastern Conference games gained 420 yards against Clemson. The

Tigers gained just 153 yards.

”To play like this in the rivalry game is very disappointing.

But it’s over. We’ve got to move on,” said Swinney, who became the

first Clemson coach to go 1-3 in his first four games against South

Carolina since Jess Neely in 1934.

Even though they have lost two in a row, the Tigers still head

to the ACC title game next week against Virginia Tech, a team they

beat 23-3 in Blacksburg on Oct. 1. But the Hokies have won seven in

a row since then, while Clemson has gone 4-3.

”We’re just not playing winning football. It’s as simple as

that,” Swinney said.

The Tigers were 8-0 at one point, pushing their way into the

national title conversation. But since then, they’ve lost three of

their last four in no small part because the offensive line is

struggling to block. Clemson is running for less than 97 yards a

game during the stretch, and quarterback Tajh Boyd has been sacked

13 times – five of them Saturday night by the Gamecocks.

Boyd went 11 for 30 for 83 yards, by far his worst outing of the


”Tonight, he didn’t really have a chance,” Swinney said of the

sophomore. ”He was back running for his life all night.”

Boyd didn’t put all the blame on the offensive line, saying he

panicked too quickly as things disintegrated in front of him.

”I have to become wiser and more composed. I just need to be

more confident in my guys and not immediately run out of the

pocket,” Boyd said.

Boyd did break Clemson’s single-season mark with his 28th

touchdown pass, a first-half scoring throw to Dwayne Allen.

Clemson’s sudden lack of offensive production is frustrating

everyone. Running back Andre Ellington, who hasn’t run for over 100

yards since returning for an injury three games ago, walked off

from his postgame interview three questions in when someone asked

why the offensive production is so far down.

The loss stung even more because Clemson has dominated this

rivalry since it began. The Tigers came in with a 65-39-4 edge in

the state’s most talked-about matchup. Tommy Bowden, the coach

Swinney replaced, may have never made it to the ACC title game, but

he kept Clemson fans at bay for a long time by going 7-2 against

the Gamecocks.

”Historically, Clemson has owned this series,” South Carolina

coach Steve Spurrier said. ”They don’t own us now.”

Swinney is acutely aware of the rivalry’s place and how much

Tigers fans enjoy holding their success over the heads of their

friends who root for the Gamecocks. He called it the most important

game of the year more than once in his postgame news conference,

despite having the chance next week to win Clemson’s first ACC

title since 1991.

”We’ve lost three in a row. I’ve got to live with that,” said

Swinney, who then talked about how this loss made him as sick to

his stomach as it does Clemson fans.

”I can’t stand it,” he said.

The thing that bothered Swinney the most from the loss was how

well his defense let South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw play.

The sophomore finished 14 of 20 passing for 210 yards in his first

taste of the rivalry, including the longest touchdown pass of his

career in a 49-yard strike to Bruce Ellington. Shaw also led the

Gamecocks with 107 yards rushing.

”That’s the most disappointing thing to me coming out of this

game – we let the quarterback beat us,” Swinney said.

Still, the season is far from lost for Clemson. A win over

Virginia Tech would give the Tigers 10 wins for the first time

since 1990 and a bid to the Orange Bowl as the ACC champion.

Clemson hasn’t been to a bowl in the current BCS rotation since the

1981 national championship team that beat Nebraska in the Orange


That’s why tight end Dwayne Allen said the team needs to get

over this loss before they get on the bus.

”We’re not in disarray. We still have goals,” Allen said. ”We

have to get ready for the ACC championship now.”