Clemson, No. 8, is out of the college football playoff race after losing 31-30 to South Carolina, which ended both a six-game losing streak in the series for the Gamecocks and the Tigers slumped almost six years before a current Clemson player was on campus. Clemson also saw his 68-0 streak with wins fall by the wayside after building a halftime lead under coach Dabo Swinney.
Special teams took center stage in the Gamecocks’ victory, a fitting statement for coach Shane Beamer, a longtime special teams coordinator. South Carolina stomped from its own 19-yard line and forced a fumble from returnee Antonio Williams, which the visitors recovered to run out the clock. Punter Kai Kroeger had an incredible seven-boot play, five of which were knocked down inside the 20-yard line. Only one of these subsequent drives resulted in points for the Tigers.
Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei completed just 8 of 29 passes for 99 yards in the worst performance of his career and a performance that matched his efforts last year in this rivalry.
South Carolina QB Spencer Rattler followed up his six-touchdown campaign in a Tennessee riot by throwing for 360 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Antwane Wells caught eight balls for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
South Carolina’s victory over Clemson was the first since the Gamecocks’ 31-17 win over the Tigers in 2013. Connor Shaw was the Gamecocks’ quarterback and led the program with 152 yards passing and 94 yards rushing.
Here are more takeaways from Saturday’s excitement at the Palmetto Series.
Statement finish for Year 2 under Beamer
It’s been a few years since South Carolina was a legitimate Chaos team, but Beamer has the program back where it belongs. The Gamecocks now have back-to-back wins against top-10 opponents for the first time in program history. They’ve also handled conference games that could have turned into losers in years past, beating Kentucky and a Texas A&M squad ranked 4th on the 247Sports Talent Composite.
Beamer has quickly become a favorite in Colombia, and with good reason. South Carolina is talented enough to cause problems for higher-ranked opponents in the SEC East and beyond. Being able to compete again and at least swing for the SEC East race is a big step for this program – and should quickly become a valuable recruiting tool for the affable Beamer.
Clemson runs out of the CFP
Even if Clemson had beaten South Carolina, it’s possible that as a potential conference champion with a loss in the playoff chase, he would have needed style points. However, the rivalry loss — which gave Clemson his second regular-season loss this season — eliminates any backdoor chance for Clemson to warm up. The Tigers settled the deal in the ACC game with an unbeaten 8-0 record, but out-of-conference matchups against South Carolina and Notre Dame ultimately doomed them in the CFP hunt. Dabo Swinney’s program has reached the highest levels of college football through dominance of the ACC, but that’s no longer enough to compete nationally.
The Tigers’ QB problems continue
Uiagalelei had a better statistical year as a junior, but his miserable performance against South Carolina only underscored why questions about the former five-star player continue to swirl. Uiagalelei completed a paltry 28% of his passes and failed to complete 100 yards.
South Carolina took a one-point lead with 10:54 in the game. Clemson had three full drives to attempt just one field goal to retake the lead. The first ended in a three-and-out after successive incompletions. The second led to a second-play interception by Uiagalelei. The third ended in a punt after three incompletions.
Clemson has won 10 games for the second straight season, but Uiagalelei remains a liability after two years as a starting quarterback. Backup Cade Klubnik could be the answer, but running this roster and system in 2023 just isn’t palatable.