It looked like a blowout was an inevitability for the Clemson Tigers against the South Carolina Gamecocks, but the Gamecocks battled against the #1 team in the country before running out of steam and losing 37-32 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Things got off to a very promising start for the Gamecocks and their defense as they forced, and recovered, a pair of fumbles in the first quarter - but couldn't take advantage. The Tigers would eventually get into the end zone on their second possession of the second quarter as Deshaun Watson strung together an efficient drive - going 4-4 passing for 43 yards - capping it with a five-yard carry to make it 7-0. They would march down the field once more on their next drive, ending on a 55-yard grab by Deon Cain to stretch it to 14-0 with 4:17 left in the half.
It looked like Clemson would put this one on ice early in the second half as they scored on a Watson 30-yard keeper, one play after a fumble was (controversially) overturned, to make it 21-3. But Perry Orth and the Gamecocks responded as Orth found Deebo Samuel in the end zone with 7:43 left in the frame to cut it to 21-10. However, the #1 team in the country had an answer of their own as they upped their advantage to 28-10 with 2:16 left in the frame courtesy of a C.J. Fuller four-yard score.
Ballgame? Not quite. Two big plays in a row by the Gamecocks made this one a ballgame again: first, Orth hit the NFL Draft-bound Pharoh Cooper from 57 yards out to cut it to 28-17 with eight seconds left in the third. Then, after Clemson's third fumble of the game, Shon Carson punched it in from a yard out to make it 28-25 after the ensuing two-point conversion was successful. But Watson and the Tigers had yet another answer: with 8:05 left, the quarterback kept it himself with his third TD run of the afternoon to stretch it to 34-25 with the PAT sailing wide right. But with the Gamecocks failing to do anything on their next two drives, including a 4th and long pickup on a keeper by Orth that was ruled just short with 1:43 left, the Tigers were able to ice it with a 36-yard field goal with 1:27 remaining and get the win. Orth connected with Samuel once more with a second remaining to set the final margin.
The Gamecocks end the season at 3-9, while Clemson heads to next week's ACC Championship in Charlotte against North Carolina with a 12-0 mark. Many questions lie ahead for the Gamecocks in the next few days and weeks - the least of which who their next head coach will be - which figure to be answered sooner rather than later.