Welcome back everybody! This is the week of the year we all look forward to no matter how the season has gone. After last year’s loss, Clemson was looking to return the favor in Columbia this year. The Tigers came in about a touchdown favorite. It was mostly a defensive struggle as neither team’s offense could get much going. The Tigers came away with
USC got the ball first but Clemson struck quickly when Gamecock receiver Xavier Legette dropped a backwards pass and Khalil Barnes picked it up and ran it in. Only 30 seconds into the game the Tigers were ahead 7-0. On the next USC possession, QB Spencer Rattler tried to strike deep but the pass was a bit underthrown and Barnes pulled it down. In a year where the Tigers, especially early on in the season, were bitten hard by turnovers, the game started off completely differently. However, the Tiger offense started slow and punted away after a 3 and out. The Gamecocks took over at their 19.
USC got their running game going, including a scramble by Rattler after escaping a sack. The Gamecocks moved inside the 10 but the Tigers forced a 4th and goal from inside the 1. USC went a little razzle dazzle with a reverse and the Tiger defense played the runner a bit too hesitatingly and allowed him to get in. The score was tied at 7-7 with 6:39 left in the quarter. After the touchback, Clemson got its running game going on the legs of Cade Klubnik and Phil Mafah as they moved into Gamecock territory. A very poorly executed bubble screen put the Tigers in a hole and on 3rd and long Klubnik was very nearly picked off. Jonathan Weitz nailed the 50-yard FG to put the Tigers ahead 10-7 with under a minute left in the quarter.
With Rattler again showing his elusiveness, the Gamecocks moved out near midfield. The Tiger defense forced a 4th and 1 but USC converted it. USC running back Mario Anderson, who had been very productive up to this point was tackled hard by Xavier Thomas and got up wobbly after hitting his head on the ground. He would later return. The Tiger defense forced a 4th and 5 and USC punted and the offense took over at their 11. Will Shipley was the go-to guy at the start of the drive but the drive stalled on a 3rd and long when Mafah couldn’t get to the marker.
The next USC drive started slow as the Tiger defense got two TFLs and and and incomplete pass to end the drive. After the punt, the Tiger offense got the ball at the Gamecock 45. Shipley made a key catch and run to get a 1st down on 3rd and long down to the 32. But bad throws by Klubnik doomed the drive and Clemson settled for another Weitz FG from 49 yards. With just over 5 minutes left in the half, Clemson led 13-7.
The Tiger defense kept the Gamecocks in check and forced a punt. With 4 minutes left, the Tiger offense got the ball at their 22 but they produced nothing and punted on 4th and 13. USC couldn’t do much on their possession either. Clemson then ran the clock out.
Clemson started fast in the 2nd half when Klubnik hit Sheridan Jones for 39 yards. But a few plays later on 3rd and 4 they couldn’t convert it and settled for another Weitz FG, this time from 42 yards. At the 13:16 mark of the 3rd quarter, Clemson led 16-7. The Tiger defense smothered the Gamecocks, who didn’t help themselves with multiple false starts, and the punt was fielded at the Tiger 43.
The Tigers had an effective start to their drive but Klubnik threw a ball into good coverage in the end zone and USC picked it off. The Clemson defense kept them from doing much of anything and the Tigers took over at their 15. The drive started promising but dropped passes and a penalty led to 3rd and 10. Continuing the night’s trend, the pass hit Troy Stellato in the hands and he dropped it. Oh how I long for the days when we had guys like Sammy, Nuk, Tee, Hunter and Mike. But, yet again, the defense bailed them out. The offense thanked them by going 3 and out. At least Aidan Swanson has been punting great all season.
USC moved out to midfield but the Tiger defense then clamped down and forced a punt. With just under 10 minutes left, the Tigers needed a nice long, grinding drive to burn the clock down. The drive started well with Shipley running, but then it stalled and the Tigers punted. USC took over at their 12 with about 6 minutes to go.
The defense came through again and forced a turnover on downs. With good field position the offense predictably went to the running game. This time they got it done and preserved the 16-7 victory.
The Tigers concluded their regular season in a positive fashion. The defense, as usual, carried the team, but the offense didn’t score a touchdown all night. State bragging rights come back to the good guys, and feel free to start using them in the comments section below.