USC and Clemson traded punts before Rattler made his first mistake of the game, throwing a costly interception to Jeremiah Trotter who returned it for six points. The Gamecocks punted on their next drive and Will Shipley burst free for 47 yards. DJ followed that up shortly with a 9-yard TD run to make it 14-0 early.
Two more punts swapped possession back to Carolina who drove deep into Clemson territory to end the quarter.
After several goal-line defensive stops, Rattler found Antwane Wells on a crossing route for USC’s first score of the day. On Clemson’s ensuing drive they caught a lucky break as what looked to be a backward pass and fumble was ruled incomplete. Facing 3rd and 9, DJ was hit as he threw a wobbly pass to the ground.
Thankfully, Aidan Swanson had a booming punt that rolled out of bounds at the USC 2-yard line. On the very next play, Ruke Orhorhoro came calling and hit Rattler for safety, swinging momentum back to the Tigers.
Dabo called an interesting huddle trick play on the kickoff return that technically worked until Mafah fumbled the ball away. Rattler took advantage and drove quickly, scampering in for his first rushing TD of the day.
Needing a big play to stay ahead of the Gamecocks, DJ found Beaux Collins streaking open for 59 yards. After a likely touchdown was dropped by Ngata, DJ hit Antonio Williams on a corner fade to bring Clemson’s lead back to 9.
Stuffed on 3rd and short, Shane Beamer elected to go for it from his own 34. Rattler faked the handoff and chucked it deep to McDowell for 65 yards, the longest completion of his career. The defense came through once again, however, and RJ Mickens picked off Rattler in the endzone for their second takeaway of the game.
The turnover didn’t produce much and DJ punted the ball to the endzone from midfield, a 48-yard boot. The Gamecocks took one shot downfield that fell incomplete and then went into the half, the scoreline a manageable 23-14.
The Tigers came out flat, their first possession of the half going nowhere. The punt was also returned for 37 yards to the Clemson 26 yard-line, instantly giving the Gamecocks excellent field position. They capitalized on the gift and punched it in on a Jaheim Bell touchdown run from the 2, bringing things to 23-21 in Death Valley.
Clemson again had nothing to offer offensively, but the defense came up with a big sack via KJ Henry and Wade Woodaz to stop USC from putting more points up just yet. Antonio Williams returned the punt 22 yards and Clemson leaned on the run game to start moving downfield. Will Shipley flexed and bowled his way into the endzone to push the lead back up to 9.
The lead was short-lived for Clemson - Rattler connected with Antwane Wells on a huge 72-yard bomb to punch the Tigers right back in the mouth. Another punt from Clemson opened the door for USC to take the lead for the first time all game.
An untimely targeting call ejected RJ Mickens from a struggling secondary to end the third quarter, danger looming on the horizon.
The Gamecocks drove to the red zone largely on the backs of Rattler and Wells before a facemask penalty sent them back to the 25. On 3rd and a mile, Simpson tracked down a scrambling Rattler to force the 35-yard field goal.
DJ had an awkward drop and the offense failed to do anything, punting away for the 8th time to the Gamecocks. The defense held as Rattler’s third-down pass was just barely incomplete, bouncing off the dirt into his receiver’s hands. Kai Kroeger punted for 61 yards, yet again pinning Clemson within their 10 yard-line.
Already having a rough game, DJ made another poor decision and chucked it deep for the costly interception. The Tiger defense stood tall and held the Gamecocks to a punt, but Kroeger continued his dominant play and sent this one 63 yards to the Clemson 3.
With a 40-game home streak and a 7-game winning streak against USC on the line, Clemson started their last drive needing to get within Potter’s range. A PI call extended gave the Tigers a break, but three straight incompletions forced yet another punt.
The defense held once last time and gave the Clemson offense great field position to work with, but Antonio Williams fumbled in heartbreaking fashion to end things in Death Valley.