Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris sets a benchmark of 82 plays per game for his offense. If they can get that many snaps on offense, they feel like they've put themselves in a good position to win. Tonight they only ran 56 plays and didn't do very much offensively after a 14-point first quarter. From the second quarter on, the Gamecocks possessed the ball for 33 minutes, 3 seconds, compared to Clemson's 11 minutes, 57 seconds.
For South Carolina, the story of the night was the play of Dylan Thompson, who got his first ever start against a BCS opponent because Connor Shaw was sidelined with an ankle injury. Coming into the night, Dylan Thompson's passing attempts were very much boom-or-bust propositions. That continued tonight, but enough plays went boom for the Gamecocks to hang 27 points and gain 443 yards of total offense against the Clemson defense. Thompson was 23-of-41 passing for 315 yards (7.7 ypa), 3 TDs, and 1 INT. He also extended several drives with his legs, picking up several big first downs after the pocket had collapsed.
I've certainly been one to downplay the idea that Thompson could/should challenge Shaw for the role of QB1, but this performance was impressive enough for me to at least think that Thompson will be given, if nothing else, a nominal shot at unseating Shaw during spring practice. But I would expect that Shaw will be the starter for whatever bowl game the Gamecocks wind up in.
ESPN cut to the injured Connor Shaw several times throughout the game. He had his helmet on, as if he was ready to go into the game at a moment's notice. It was kind of sad.
The Gamecock defense got gashed on a few big plays in the first quarter, but held Clemson to just 165 yards thereafter and forced two Tajh Boyd interceptions. A big reason that happened was because of the pressure that the Gamecocks were able to get with their front four. (Off the top of my head, I don't remember an instance of the Gamecocks rushing more than four.) And there's no better example of the Gamecocks' success in that department than Jadeveon Clowney's record-setting 4 or 4.5 sack effort (still waiting to see the official numbers), which will give him the single-season sack record at South Carolina.
This certainly wasn't the defense's best performance, but you're going to win most games where you sack the quarterback six times and turn it over twice on defense.
The run blocking is still atrocious, as evidenced by the 2.8 yards per carry in this contest, but a strong effort by Dylan Thompson and the receiving corps should be enough encouragement to sustain us until bowl season.
Ace Sanders' 6 catch, 118 yard performance set his career best in receiving yards.
Bruce Ellington's pair of touchdown receptions were the most he's hauled in during a single game as a Gamecock.