Clowney, Thompson crash Clemson

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Dalton Freeman, a fifth-year senior offensive lineman at Clemson, missed the memo.

Perhaps the handful of whiffs his unit had on South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney Saturday night skewed his psyche.

“The good news is no one has lined up (this season) and just beat us,” Freeman said after the Gamecocks delivered a 27-17 beatdown in Death Valley. “It’s not anything they did spectacular, it’s just us making mistakes.”

Apparently we didn’t watch the same game. Clowney, a Bednarik award finalist, set a Memorial Stadium record with 4.5 sacks as South Carolina’s defensive line shut down the ACC’s top offense and knocked the Tigers out of BCS at-large contention.

Clowney has made a strong case for SEC Defensive Player of the Year throughout the season and capped off his sensational sophomore campaign with his best individual game to date, setting a new school record for sacks (13.5) in a season.

South Carolina’s fourth straight win over its archrival is the most satisfying during that span as the Gamecocks snapped Clemson’s 13-game home winning streak and helped the SEC move to a perfect 4-0 Saturday against the ACC. the Gamecocks did so without Marcus Lattimore for the second straight season and got a unforgettable effort from backup quarterback Dylan Thompson.

Hours before kickoff, Steve Spurrier announced Thompson would start over Connor Shaw who was nursing a sore foot. Thompson responded in his first-ever road start with a 300-yard game highlighted by a nifty, 6-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington on third down in the closing minutes. Thompson’s 20-yard run on 3rd-and-19 late in the game inside Clemson territory is a play fans in the Palmetto State won’t soon forget.

While Spurrier’s offense imposed its will in the second half, South Carolina’s defense turned up the heat and kept the Tigers from getting into a rhythm. The Gamecocks had the ball nearly 20 minutes longer than the favored-Tigers and forced three three-and-outs after intermission. After piecing together a pair of touchdown drives in the first quarter to lead 14-7, Clemson managed just 186 total yards over the final three quarters. South Carolina picked off Boyd twice and held him to his lowest quarterback rating (107.0) since the last time these two met last November.

The Gamecocks now await their bowl fate at an attractive 10-2. Tampa is a likely destination.

Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-US PRESSWIRE

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