One week after upsetting then-No. 5 Tennessee at home, the South Carolina football team shocked the college football world again with a 31-30 win over No. 8 Clemson at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
The victory marked the first time the Gamecocks have beaten the Tigers since November 2013. It also snapped Clemson's 40-game home winning streak.
Junior quarterback Spencer Rattler delivered another elite performance for the Gamecocks' offense, leading the unit after falling behind early and making important plays when the team needed it most.
“He’s fantastic. I told him, 'We’re going to win the game in the second half because of you,'” head coach Shane Beamer said. “He’s a hell of a quarterback, he’s a great kid and what a leader he is for us.”
Rattler followed up his 438 yard, six touchdown display against Tennessee by throwing for 360 yards and two touchdowns on 25-39 passing. He also connected on two passes that resulted in gains of 60 yards or more including a 65-yard connection with sophomore running back Juju McDowell and a 72-yard touchdown throw to junior wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr.
Rattler began the season with five touchdown passes and nine interceptions over his first eight games with the Gamecocks, but has turned it around over the last four games, completing 70.9% of his passes and maintaining an 11-2 touchdown-interception ratio. Graduate student tight end Nate Adkins praised Rattler for his previous efforts and his ability to produce explosive plays on offense.
“He’s the type of guy that can just be unstoppable whenever he gets going because he has all the talent in the world,” Adkins said. “We have all the trust in him in the world, so whenever he’s firing, we’re all behind him and backing him, and we’re a very good offense whenever we’re going.”
Wells Jr. totaled 131 yards and scored two touchdowns on nine receptions for his fourth 100-yard game of the season. After transferring from James Madison before the season began, Wells said he has always been capable of making an impact on the Gamecocks’ success.
“I was always confident," Wells Jr. said. "I always knew I was different, and I’m just happy God is blessing me to do the things that I’m doing now.”
Beamer praised Adkins, who emerged as a breakout star in the game, for his efforts on offense and special teams. Adkins surpassed his season totals in yards (62) and receptions (4), including a 32-yard one-handed grab that extended the Gamecocks’ first scoring drive early in the second quarter.
“He’s just a great football player," Beamer said. "Because of what he did in the backfield last week as a running back, we felt we could kind of open it up.”
After falling behind 14-0 early in the game, South Carolina's offense outscored Clemson 31-16 over the final three quarters of the game, but the South Carolina defense played a large role in keeping the game within reach. The Gamecocks' defense prevented the Tigers from scoring on seven of its final eight drives, forcing six punts and earned an interception on Clemson’s junior quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei.
“The fight in this team — I hope you all understand — it is special what we got in our locker room,” Beamer said. “For us to play like we did in the first quarter, nobody flinched, and we were a confident team coming in here today, but we got better as the game went on.”
Beamer expressed his excitement for the South Carolina program for emerging victorious after losing the previous seven Palmetto Bowl meetings.
“I know how important this rivalry is … and I know how important this game is to so many people in this state,” Beamer said. “I”m just so happy for our fans. I’m so happy for our seniors, our players, I mean, a total team effort.”
South Carolina improves its overall record to 8-4, the team’s best regular season record since going 8-4 in 2017.
The team will learn which bowl game it's headed to on Sunday, Dec. 4, after all regular season and conference championship games have been played.