The Gamecocks entered Williams-Brice Stadium hoping to pull off a miraculous upset of the country’s top-ranked team. The Tigers held advantages in all phases of the game and interim head coach Shawn Elliott and his players knew the Gamecocks would need a nearly flawless showing to have a chance in what ended up being a 37-32 Clemson victory.
Clemson started sloppy, fumbling away two drives after an opening drive three-and-out. The Gamecocks, despite numerous opportunities, flubbed their chances, registering just 55 yards in the first quarter.
Clemson scored two quick touchdowns early in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead before a solid Gamecock drive was stagnated by South Carolina’s inept red zone offense. An Elliott Fry field goal put the Gamecocks on the board just before the half.
Holding steady with a 14-3 lead, Clemson drove down the field and survived a near fumble to score on quarterback Deshaun Watson’s 30-yard touchdown run. Up 21-3, nearly everyone believed the game was over. However, Elliott and the rest of the Gamecocks never gave up.
Redshirt freshman receiver Deebo Samuel caught three passes for 65 yards on the next drive including a 48-yard slant pattern and a seven-yard touchdown, the first of his Gamecock career. After a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive from Clemson, junior wide receiver Pharoh Cooper scored a 57-yard receiving touchdown in his final game as a Gamecock. The do-it-all Gamecock announced earlier this week that he will declare for the NFL Draft after being one of the lone bright spots for the 3-9 Gamecocks in an otherwise abysmal season.
South Carolina did not have the talent this season to have a shot against the Tigers, but the players fought to the final whistle, pulling within three points after Clemson’s third fumble of the day and a Shon Carson touchdown run.
In the end, Clemson’s talent overcame South Carolina’s “nothing to lose” attitude, but not without resistance from the feisty Gamecocks. A 3-8 team with an interim head coach coming off a loss to an FCS opponent usually doesn’t play until the final whistle against the nation’s top team, but Elliott and the Gamecocks did.
South Carolina’s defense put the team in position to take the lead early in the game, but offensive miscues doomed the Gamecocks early.
The Gamecocks dropped passes, overthrew open receivers and missed blocks in a disappointing first quarter, being shutout despite having good field position throughout the early going. Junior quarterback Perry Orth threw an interception as the Gamecocks neared the red zone on their most successful first quarter drive, and despite a dominant performance from the defense, South Carolina ended the first quarter in a tie.
“How frustrated would you have been?” Elliott said. “Short fields against that team right there, you gotta punch it in.”
It was a fitting end for a season chocked full of miscues. The loss was the Gamecocks’ fifth one-possession loss of the season, many of which were preceded by mishaps in execution. Under Elliott, four of the Gamecocks’ five straight losses came by seven points or less, often ending in comebacks that fell just short.
Senior Day Notes and Performances
Four non-seniors participated in Senior Day festivities; however, junior linebacker Skai Moore was not among them. Moore is considered one of the top two Gamecock prospects, alongside Cooper, but unlike Cooper has not yet declared for the NFL Draft.
Including his 13 tackles against the Tigers, Moore registered a team-high 111 tackles this season, the third-straight year he's led the team. Moore also added a pair of forced fumbles in what could be his last collegiate game. Moore said that he would need to talk to his family before making his final decision sometime in the near future.
Cooper finished with four receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown in his final game, finishing his junior season with a team-high 973 receiving yards.
Senior defensive lineman Gerald Dixon finished with four tackles against the Tigers while seniors T.J. Gurley and Isaiah Johnson finished with six stops apiece.
With a 3-9 record, the Gamecocks’ 2015 season is officially over. However, Athletic Director Ray Tanner expects to hire a head coach in the near future. National Signing Day for high school seniors