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
”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.”