Their sixth straight Palmetto Bowl defeat moved the Gamecocks to a listless 4-8 record, and South Carolina’s performance very much matched that mark. I’ll spare everyone a play-by-play, and just sum it up instead:
Offensively, the Gamecocks couldn’t get much of anything going against Clemson’s fearsome defense, racking up lightning-quick three-and-outs behind the usual assortment of runs for no gain, dropped passes, and head-scratching calls. (Why USC wanted to press tempo rather than slow the game down and limit Clemson’s possessions is beyond my pay grade, clearly.) Quarterback Ryan Hilinski looked gimpy, too, subbing out for backup Jay Urich multiple times in the first half — oddly, Dakereon Joyner was nowhere to be seen, with running back Rico Dowdle taking the direct snaps in South Carolina’s attempts at the Wildcat. USC did see a little success in the running game, with Clemson transfer Tavien Feaster working hard against his former team, but it just wasn’t enough to keep the Gamecocks ahead of the sticks.
Defensively, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence had a field day, completing a school-record 16 straight passes at one point and frequently finding star receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross wide open for huge gains. Running back Travis Etienne was his usual productive self as well, helping to keep the USC defense off balance and scrambling to keep up.
...on the bright side, the uniforms looked great and we should wear those more often.
As listless and unimpressive as South Carolina looked in this one, I don’t know how much pressure — if any — will be put on Will Muschamp as a result. Staffing changes, on at least the micro level, desperately need to be made, so this is going to an interesting offseason. The Carolina-Clemson rivalry is unfortunately one of the biggest mismatches in college football right now, and while that can’t be fixed overnight, some kind of progress needs to be put in motion.
Switching to a more sentimental note to wrap this up, I want to express indescribable gratitude for guys like Bryan Edwards and Javon Kinlaw, who gave us exciting moments, reasons to cheer, and were otherwise absolute soldiers during their often tough careers here. The same goes for the rest of USC’s seniors, and I know I’m not alone in wishing every success for them.