Coming into the 115th edition of the Palmetto Bowl, the Gamecocks’ refrain was “Never Again,” a reference to last season’s 56-7 beatdown at the hands of the Clemson Tigers. Unfortunately, it was Groundhog Day for South Carolina, and another nightmare unfolded in Williams-Brice as the Tigers pummeled the Gamecocks 34-10.
The game got off to the chippy start you’d expect, as the Gamecocks were clearly feeding off a raucous crowd and their own adrenaline. After electing to receive the ball, South Carolina went nowhere on offense, but managed to force a punt of their own. Unfortunately, Clemson pinned the Gamecocks at their 1-yard line, and quarterback Jake Bentley promptly threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Clemson’s Ryan Carter.
From there, it was all Tigers, as the Gamecocks couldn’t mount a response in any phase of the game. Clemson scored on its next possession, leaning on running backs Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster and mixing in receiver Tee Higgins, who ultimately carved up the Gamecocks for 84 yards on a few big plays. Feaster plunged into the end zone after a 9-play, 80-yard drive, and the Tigers went up 14-0 early in the second quarter. Clemson added another touchdown, this time on a 4-yard Hunter Renfrow catch that echoed their national championship-winning play from last season, and took a 20-0 lead to the locker room.
South Carolina’s woes continued, as Clemson got the ball to start the third quarter and promptly went up 28-0 on another Renfrow reception, this one featuring some fancy moves on a 61-yard catch and run. After turning in a sloppy first half marred by boneheaded defensive penalties and bad offensive decisions, the reeling Gamecocks threw another interception, with Bentley picked off by Trayvon Mullen. The Tigers didn’t capitalize and turned it over on downs, giving South Carolina a chance to string some positive plays together. But when the Gamecocks’ ensuing possession went for negative yardage, Clemson found the end zone again with a 5-yard Etienne run on a drive that was extended by another foolish defensive penalty. If the game hadn’t been over before, it was now.
Down 34-0 in the fourth quarter, South Carolina finally reached pay dirt when Keisean Nixon picked off Clemson’s Kelly Bryant and set up a 40-yard Parker White field goal. On the Tigers’ next possession, Steven Montac intercepted backup quarterback Hunter Johnson to set up another Gamecock score, this one courtesy of Bryan Edwards’ 38-yard reception. The game then mercifully ended with the final margin 34-10, and frankly, it wasn’t that close.
The 8-4 Gamecocks will now try to lick their wounds, get some players healthy, and await their bowl destination. There’s a lot to answer for after the fourth straight loss to Clemson and the second consecutive blowout defeat.