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Nov 25, 2023

Defense Propels Clemson to 16-7 Win Over South Carolina in Columbia


COLUMBIA, S.C. – Clemson’s defense scored a touchdown and held rival South Carolina (5-7) to 169 total yards of offense en route to a 16-7 victory in the Palmetto Bowl presented by SC State Lottery at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night. Clemson (8-4) won its 73rd game in the series and 54th in Columbia all-time. The 169 yards of offense were the fewest allowed by a Clemson defense in the series since 1989, when the Gamecocks totaled 155 yards. 

Freshman Khailil Barnes returned a fumble for a touchdown and an interception in the first 44 seconds of the game to set the tone for the Tigers, who have won four straight games overall and eight of the last nine in the series. 

After surrendering its only touchdown of the game with 6:39 to play in the first quarter, Clemson’s defense forced South Carolina to punt on eight straight drives and allowed just 66 yards on South Carolina’s final nine drives of the game. The Tigers piled up 219 yards rushing, including 89 from running back Phil Mafah, 80 from running back Will Shipley, and a career-high 52 from quarterback Cade Klubnik. Klubnik also hit 15 of his 27 passing attempts for 100 yards in leading three scoring drives for the offense. 

Clemson’s defense held South Carolina to 57 yards rushing, totaled six tackles for a loss, five three-and-outs, and only allowed South Carolina to convert on one of 11 third down attempts. 

On the second snap of the game, Barnes recovered a lateral that bounced off a receiver’s hands and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown just 25 seconds into the game, Clemson’s fastest score against South Carolina since C.J. Spiller ran back the opening kickoff in 2009. On South Carolina’s next offensive play, Barnes made a diving interception on a deep pass by Spencer Rattler on Clemson’s 36-yard line. Barnes became the first Clemson player to record a takeaway on consecutive plays from scrimmage by an opponent since Brian Dawkins against Duke in 1995.

Following a Clemson punt, South Carolina went on a 12-play, 81-yard scoring drive with Luke Doty running the ball one yard for the touchdown on fourth and goal to tie the game 7-7 with 6:39 left in the first quarter. 

Clemson responded on its next possession when Jonathan Weitz kicked a career-long 50-yard field goal to give Clemson a 10-7 lead with 43 seconds left in the first quarter. 

Clemson and South Carolina both went on to punt on their ensuing drives. After that, Clemson’s defense produced two back-to-back tackles for a loss which resulted in a three-and-out and good field positioning at the 45-yard line for the Tigers’ offense. Clemson came away with three points as Weitz kicked another long 49-yard field goal with 7:44 left in the first half. Clemson led at halftime, 13-7.

On Clemson’s first drive of the second half, a deep 39-yard pass to Tyler Brown set up Weitz to make a 42-yard field goal, his third field goal from 40-plus yards of the game, tying a single-game school record for 40-plus-yard field goals. The kick increased Clemson’s lead to 16-7. Ruke Orhorhoro then ended South Carolina’s drive, sacking Spencer Rattler for a nine-yard loss and forcing the Gamecocks’ fourth three-and-out. 

Nick Emmanwori got the ball back for South Carolina as he intercepted Klubnik’s pass in the endzone, resulting in a touchback. The Gamecocks drive would end scoreless, as would its next three. Clemson also punted on its ensuing three possessions. 

With 3:19 left in the fourth quarter, Clemson’s defense stopped South Carolina on a critical fourth-and-three attempt. The Tigers’ offense then recorded three first downs to run out the clock and seal the 16-7 victory.  

With the regular season completed, Clemson will now await its bowl destination. Clemson’s bowl location and opponent are expected to be announced on Sunday, Dec. 3. Fans are encouraged to bookmark for bowl announcements, ticket information, holiday merchandise and more.