South Carolina was able to win its fifth straight in the rivalry game on Saturday night with a 31-17 victory over Clemson at Williams-Brice Stadium. Read what players and coaches from both sides had to say following the Gamecocks’ (10-2) third straight 10-win season.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was honored on Senior Day, had one quarterback sack of Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd in the Gamecocks' 31-17 victory over the Tigers
Head Coach Steve Spurrier
Opening Statement … Wonderful win for our guys. I started thinking, amazingly when we play these guys from Clemson, the script follows the same thing. [The score was] 31-17, they had 57 plays and we had about 78. Somehow we made a bunch of third downs, early and late but we didn't make much in between. We really got stymied trying to run the ball, but fortunately quarterback draw got us out of the jam. I guess when the game was tied there in the fourth, Connor made about 11 yards on third and 12 and then we got them off side on fourth down, which was a big play in the game. Our defense again was very good, I guess we got a couple of turnovers, special teams dropped two punts. It was a wonderful win for us. We're happy and very fortunate. They're a good team but continue to not play very well when they play us for some reason. Connor Shaw, best quarterback in school history. He's probably the difference maker for us. Running the ball and throwing the ball he had a successful game.
On Pharoh Cooper … Then we hit that one to Pharoh [Cooper], we put that one in this week, and I thought we should have called it at about third and one but it was third and four and the last chance to use it so I went ahead and fired it in there. Brandon [Wilds] he didn't come out clean right away, but fortunately they all came rushing up and he popped out of there and Pharoh threw a beautiful pass. That kid is a ball player, Pharoh Cooper, he's going to really be something before he leaves here. He's a true freshman and he can run kickoffs, punts, run out of the backfield, catch passes, throw passes. He's an all around ball player. We finally learned he was that good about mid-season, but he'll be important if we play again next week and in a bowl game.
On the Defense … The defensive guys were super, all those interceptions at the end, Skai Moore and TJ Holloman, those freshman linebackers. [Jadaveon] Clowney said let's give a game ball to those freshman linebackers, so we gave a bunch of game balls out.
On Winning 10 Games … We have an excellent coaching staff here, and it's pretty neat to go 10-2 with this team that was one time called the youngest team in America. They've really achieved, and I'm really proud of this team. I was thinking back of all the teams I've had, these guys may have achieved the most for such a young bunch of guys that haven't played all that much and don't have that much experience. They've really played well this year so give them credit.
On the Clemson Series and Playing at Home … Well if you look at the stat sheet, [the last few games versus Clemson] all very similar, 31-17, 34-13. We did have a 29-7 in there and 27-17 last year. They're all similar scores, and fortunately we got ahead enough we could relax a little bit the last minute of the game. But they had turnovers, and I don't think we had any. That's four home games in a row with no turnovers. Our guys play well here at Williams-Brice. The fans were super. That was one of the loudest [atmospheres] we've had here. It was neat. We know we're sort of blessed. We're not that great of a team, but the guys hang in there and just keep on playing. It was a good win for all Gamecocks.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward
On the six turnovers Clemson had tonight … Well, it's always big anytime you get an opportunity to give your offense the ball back and we were tough and turnovers came on special teams, they made some blunders. But you know I thought the guys had started to play a lot more physical, so when you start to play a lot more physical, when you know what you're doing then you get the turnovers. We're really proud of the way the guys played tonight.
Senior Connor Shaw had 22 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown in his final game at Williams-Brice Stadium
On the defense forcing turnovers on Tajh Boyd … Well, you know, when you evaluate Tajh - Tajh is a really, really good quarterback. And the system that they use at Clemson helps him a lot because I think there's initial reads that he has that they're trying to get open to throw the ball to. We try to do a good job after the first couple series to try to take those reads away. We did it by playing a lot of zone coverages, instead of playing man. I think it's easier to read when you play man and you know what the one-on-one situations are. And if we can make him hold the football a little bit, we feel like we have the chance to get to him. You know I think we hit him three times; we sacked him three times in the first half.
On the pressure given from the defensive line, especially Kelcy Quarles … Yeah, they knew what this ballgame was about. This was about a lot of pride and a lot of those guys were out there playing their last game ever in this stadium. We had an opportunity to go out and try to continue to get better. And I thought we did.
Quarterback Connor Shaw
On what Coach Swinney said to him after the game … He just said that he has enjoyed watching me play and that I'm a tough athlete and just said I was a good player. Obviously, Dabo is a good guy. He's a good coach. I am grateful he came up and talked to me for a short while. So I am appreciative of it.
On being 17-0 at home … It's just special, man. Special to me, special to the players, the seniors, the program. This is why we came to South Carolina and to finish out the seniors not losing to them is huge.
On running the ball in the second half … Yeah, our halftime adjustments - you know they schemed us up pretty good, dropped in the zone, so coach said that we were going to have to move to the quarterback run game and that's what we did and I think we executed pretty well.
Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles
On what it means to have five wins in a row against Clemson … I feel like it's bigger for the school than for myself, that's why I came here - to break records, to start new trends around here. Clemson is a good team, they have a great quarterback, great receivers and everything. Fortunately, we came out here needing to win and we won, you know I am just happy to be a part of this team.
On not having a tackle in the rivalry before this game … No, I didn't know that [I didn't have a tackle before today in the rivalry]. Probably, to be honest, I really didn't care. But, I mean, I had to go out and do what I had to do for my team. They made me a leader and I feel like I've been a leader on this team since the summer, and since the winter. So, I felt like I had to go out and do what I needed to do to make plays and create - wreak havoc out there.
On Connor Shaw … Oh, Connor, I love him to death. He's a good quarterback - he's a winner. I mean he might not do everything perfect, but one thing he is is a winner, so you know, I am proud to have him on my team.
Head coaches Dabo Swinney and Steve Spurrier meet on the field prior to the game
On advice to freshmen … I just told our freshmen linebackers that they've been coming along good this season and that they stepped up. They have played a big part in this game and did a good job. We had two interceptions from two freshmen. You don't get that a lot.
On Tajh Boyd's performance … Every year we talk about the same thing when we talk about them. We watch them play other teams, nobody is really putting a lot of pressure on him. We know that we can get to him, contain him and add pressure. Once we hit him a few times he starts getting the jitters a little bit and starts throwing crazy balls. That's what he did tonight. We got the interceptions off those, and it worked out in our favor.
On never losing to Clemson … Tonight sealed the deal. I will not lose to Clemson. I am very excited. This is a great tem with a great coaching staff. It feels great to be a part of this. I could have gone anywhere in the country, and I chose to come to South Carolina. It's been the best decision of my life probably.
On playing in Williams-Brice Stadium … I'm going to miss the crowd. There's no crowd in the country better than South Carolina. They cheered me on all season long when everyone was talking bad about me. The crowd had my back, and every time I came out on the field they cheered me on. I am every excited to be a part of this program.
Wide receiver Pharoh Cooper
On Clemson rivalry … Coming in as a freshman, I knew these seniors on the team have never lost to Clemson. As a freshman, I knew I wanted to play my butt off to help them win. For the fifth year in a row we came together as a team and got the win. That was the ultimate goal.
Junior Corner Victor Hampton
On beating Clemson 5 times in a row … It means a lot, especially to end it like this. I'm proud of the guys. We earned it. It wasn't given to us. I'm happy for the things we've done this year. I'm at a loss for words. This is a great achievement.
What the wins mean to the fans … It means a lot. It has never been done before. That's what we have tried to do every year that I have been here. We've been achieving things that South Carolina has never done. That's what I keep telling the guys - don't stop at five, go for the sixth win and continue next year. The hard work we put in all year, not just during the season, it paid off.
Swinney is now 1-5 against the Gamecocks all-time with his only victory coming as interim head coach
Head coach Dabo Swinney
Opening Statement … Well, obviously very disappointing, just a very painful loss. I thought our guys fought really hard. The first half we were very disappointed they were 8-for-11 on third downs. We had a couple turnovers, and they kept the ball 20 minutes to our 10 as a result. It was a one-score game at the half. I thought we played much better in the third quarter, kind of got the momentum back. [With the score] 17-17 in the fourth quarter, we had a chance to win the game, and we had critical mistakes. We really fought hard, but we didn't play smart. We had some critical penalties but the story of the game is the turnovers. You can't turn the ball over and beat good teams. We had four turnovers in the fourth quarter. Four of our turnovers, two were in plus territory and two were on punt returns. So, that's the difference in the game, there's no question about it.
Give all the credit to South Carolina, because they took care of the ball. Connor Shaw played tremendous, just tremendous. What a great football player he is. I have all the respect in the world for Connor Shaw. He's a great runner. There's a reason why they're undefeated at home and why he has never lost a game here at home. He is a tremendous competitor, and I have a lot of respect for him.
Obviously, our locker room is hurting greatly and so is our fan base. This is a game that everyone wants, and it's nobody's responsibility but mine, period. We didn't get it done. Again, our guys played very hard, but we did not do the things that you have to do to win the game. You're not going to beat anybody. It's actually a miracle that with all the turnovers we had that it's a 17-17 game at the start of the fourth quarter. It got away from us with a couple of series there, and we could not get it back. Very disappointing, and it's one that we're going to have to live with for another year, and it hurts for everybody.
The bragging rights stay with South Carolina, and they've earned it. I give them all the credit and congratulate their staff. We'll see what's next for us in the postseason. We missed a great opportunity tonight, but I love our team. I love everybody in that locker room, and I know that we all wanted to win, and we didn't get it done. It's been a very disappointing run against these guys, no doubt about it.
It's been a very good season for us. We'll see what we have in the postseason and try and get our 11th win. That's what we have to do. We have to pick ourselves up. Again, our heart goes out to our players because I know how much they're hurting in that locker room. I love every one of them, and I appreciate every one of them. I wish the outcome had been different, but it's not.
On quarterback draws … It was very frustrating. It's not like we didn't know they were going to run the quarterback draw. We worked really hard on defending it. I have to see the tape, but obviously they blocked us and we missed a few tackles. But [Connor Shaw is] a great player, and he's got a great feel. Some of them were pass plays that he just took off, and some of them were called draws. It's just very disappointing that we did not do a better job in stopping the quarterback.
On South Carolina limiting possessions … We helped limit our possession because we turned it over six times. We had two critical turnovers in the first half. Opening drive, we go right down the field and have a turnover, and then we get another stop, a three and out, and the ball then comes down and hits Martavis (Bryant). We have a muffed ball there. It's just very frustrating when things like that happen, but that's football and you have to overcome it.
On his plan to win … We have a plan to win. Our effort was great. I think we played really hard tonight. They fought hard the whole game, but the special teams won that battle. Obviously those turnovers were huge. We moved the ball all night. We give it right back to them, and they capitalized off of the turnover to make it 14 and that killed us. They had as a result a couple of more big plays than we did. We were the more penalized team and we had critical penalties. That's not our plan to win.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins
On making mistakes against South Carolina … We beat ourselves. That isn't Clemson football. It seems like every year some tragedy happens. That is what happened tonight, and they won.
On the offsides penalty on fourth down … We had momentum at that time and they were going to obviously punt the ball, they were trying to make us jump offsides. With the score17-17, kicking to us, I felt like the offense was in a groove and was going to drive down the field and score. You can't blame the game on one play. Collectively, we did not play that well.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd
On the coaches' message to the team after the game … We just shot ourselves in the foot, we had opportunities and did not take advantage of them. We are playing a top-10 team, and every year we have lost the turnover margin. Ultimately, I think that sums up the story every year.
On what changed after the third quarter … They did a good job with the clock, we just needed to continue to think about our game plan. It is tough to play from behind, especially in a limited amount of time.
On his fumble … We were just trying to get extra effort, we had a miscommunication within the play. I thought I was down. I thought I was down and was lifted back up, and the ball came out. I would love to see that again. It was just the breaks of the game.
Offensive lineman Tyler Shatley
On how hard the loss is considering the offensive moved the ball well … Any loss is hard. I thought we played pretty well. We turned the ball over, and you can't do that against a great time like South Carolina.
On bringing more pressure this year than previous years … They brought some stuff, but nothing we had not seen. I think we were pretty well prepared for it and did a decent job picking it up.
Quotes compiled by USC Sports Information
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