Rapid Reaction: Clemson coasts to 6th consecutive victory over South Carolina in Palmetto Bowl
With an early goal-line stand, it appeared as if South Carolina had the ingredients for an upset. Then Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence got rolling and didn’t look back for another win in the Palmetto Bowl, 38-3.
The Tigers picked up their 27th consecutive win, already a program record, and finished a second consecutive 12-0 regular season, a program first. Most damaging for the rivalry, though, was it was the 6th consecutive win over South Carolina, the longest run of rivalry success since 7 in a row from 1934-40. The loss finished South Carolina’s season with a 4-8 record.
Clemson’s starters, including Lawrence, remained in the game into the 4th quarter as the Tigers scored their 5th touchdown of the game with 11:56 remaining.
Hours after Missouri fired coach Barry Odom with a 25-25 record in 4 years, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp finished his fourth year 26-25.
Lawrence was nearly impossible to contain Saturday. At one point, he had 18 consecutive completions, which broke the school record of 16.
The pregame yielded serious news about South Carolina star WR Bryan Edwards being out, and Clemson’s noteworthy routine being watched closely.
Edwards didn’t play as he continues to recover from recent knee surgery, and it meant he finished his South Carolina career as the Gamecocks’ career leader in receptions, receiving yards, and consecutive games with a catch. He is second in receiving touchdowns (23) behind Alshon Jeffery and Sidney Rice.
As an indictment on the Gamecocks’ offense, it was Edwards who ultimately scored the final touchdown of the season for the Garnet and Black, a late 4th quarter catch against Appalachian State.
After a lot of talk before the game from Gamecocks radio voice Todd Ellis and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, there were no incidents in Clemson’s pregame walk. Two years ago, Gamecock fans threw trash at the Tigers on the field. But there were blown kisses and gestures to the crowd as the Tigers broke arms and Gamecock students turned their back to the field.
Early on, Clemson RB Travis Etienne was stopped short on 4th-and-goal on Clemson’s first drive. The Tigers sent Lawrence in motion and went direct snap to Etienne who went behind the two defensive lineman and was stuffed.
That momentum didn’t last long after the defense stuffed Clemson on 4 plays inside the 5-yard line. But on the ensuing drive, South Carolina QB Ryan Hilinski was intercepted on third down as Derion Kendrick picked him off on a throw inside the numbers.
Lawrence cashed in on the turnover with a 10-yard fade pass on 3rd down to Tee Higgins for a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone over Jammie Robinson with 6:58 left in the 1st quarter. Lawrence found Higgins again for a 65-yard touchdown with 3:46 left in the 1st quarter as Lawrence showed off his arm strength on the long throw. Clemson opened with a 149-19 edge in yards by the 14-0 lead.
Lawrence had a strong first half passing as he went 18-for-24 for 232 yards and 3 touchdowns, and finished the first half with 12 consecutive completions. Clemson had an early statistical edge in first downs (10-1), time of possession (10:41 to 4:19), and held the Gamecocks to negative 5 yards rushing in the 1st quarter.
After a lopsided start, South Carolina got on the board with a field goal on a 15-play drive, which matched the longest scoring drive of the season. But by halftime, the yardage edge went to Clemson 314-99.