USC JR, SOUTH CAROLINA — After a North Carolina choke squandered Clemson’s chances to advance to the ACC Championship Game, Dabo Swinney and company took care of business on Saturday night, downing their rival 30-0. The Tigers (9-3, 6-2 ACC) have continued to show signs of improvement with their third straight 21+ point win (UConn, Wake Forest and South Carolina).
With the winner of December 4th’s Conference Title matchup slated to make the Orange Bowl, Clemson will receive a spot in one of the ACC’s tier one postseason games alongside NC State and the loser of Wake Forest vs. Pitt. That category consists of the Holiday (Dec. 28, San Diego), Cheez-It (Dec. 29, Orlando) and Gator (Dec 31. Jacksonville) bowls.
While a majority of all-important Tigers will return to take the field in late December, Saturday’s curb-stomp of South Carolina was the last chance to see a full strength 2021 Clemson Tigers team. Here’s the skinny on who did it best.
CB Andrew Booth Jr.
A more perfect regular season finale could not be chalked up for Clemson’s top defensive prospect. Andrew Booth Jr. — a possible top ten NFL Draft pick, first selected cornerback and senior at Clemson — recorded two first quarter interceptions against the Gamecocks on Saturday to assist his team in breaking open the bank for an early lead. The Tigers never looked back, and Booth Jr. finished the 2021 regular season with three of his seven career receptions coming in the final two games.
“It felt great,” Booth told the media. “Things have definitely been dry. I’ve been waiting all season to really get mine and for them to finally start coming it feels great.”
RB Will Shipley
Despite a few missed games, split carries with other talented underclassman and some big shoes to fill, Will Shipley never floundered within the ranks of Clemson’s past freshmen rushers. The leader in all things on the ground for the Tigers — 131 carries for 678 yards and ten touchdowns — recorded his third 100+ yard game of the 2021 season. That’s the first time a freshman has completed the feat since 2006, when C.J. Spiller (the program’s current running backs coach) was playing ball for the program.
“We wanted to establish the run and we got off to a fast start,” OC Tony Elliot said. “We got good push and the backs were able to get going and get some momentum before any contact and our offensive line established the line of scrimmage from the get-go.”
Shipley earned Clemson’s first score on a 29-yard explosion with just a little over 11 minutes in the first quarter remaining. He finished Saturday rushing for 128 yards on 19 carries.
RB Kobe Pace
Speaking of other talented underclassman, Kobe Pace followed up his two-touchdown performance against Wake Forest — the ACC Atlantic Division winner — with another score against U of SC.
“We bounce things off one another,” Shipley said of Pace. “It’s a great relationship and it’s continuing to get better and better. He makes it easier for me to produce.”
Pace finished the 2021 regular season with 92 carries for 590 yards and six touchdowns, qualifying as the team’s leading rusher in games against Boston College, Syracuse and Wake Forest.
K Kai Kroeger
Aside from scoring a whopping zero points against their rival, USC Jr.’s defensive efforts proved futile in light of a run-heavy attack at Clemson’s helm. But kudos to Kai Kroeger, for the team’s star punter garnered a plethora of action on Saturday night.
Six punts — two inside the twenty — highlighted a spectacle of action on the special teams side of the football. Among his boots was a 59-yarder, which would eventually be downed at the one. He finished Saturday with six kicks including two inside the 20.