This rivalry now belongs to Gamecocks

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Everywhere you looked late Saturday night in Williams-Brice Stadium, they were holding up five fingers.

Well, at least everywhere but the Clemson sideline.

The script in this Palmetto State rivalry has become as predictable as Charlie Brown having the football pulled out from under him every Thanksgiving.

Only the roles have reversed.

South Carolina won its fifth in a row over Clemson, 31-17, in a game that could have been a carbon copy in a lot of ways of the previous four.

The Gamecocks didn’t turn it over a single time. The Tigers turned it over six times. The Gamecocks made key plays. The Tigers made critical mistakes.

The Gamecocks turned up the pressure on Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and sacked him five times. That’s 16 times in the last three games in this series that Boyd has been sacked.

The Tigers wilted under the pressure and will have another entire year to explain how they can play so well much of the season, and yet, so crummy when they meet up with their arch-rivals the final weekend of the regular season.

“They’ve got a good team, but continue to not play very well when they play us for some reason,” said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, doing his best to play nice after becoming the first coach in South Carolina history to win five in a row over Clemson.

Of course, the Head Ball Coach just continues to rack up firsts at South Carolina.

The Gamecocks (10-2) have now won 10 or more games in three consecutive seasons. Before Spurrier arrived in 2005, they’d won 10 or more games in a season only once in school history.

“I was thinking back to all the teams I’ve had, and 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,” Spurrier said.

The only bummer for the No. 10 Gamecocks was that they didn’t get the help they were looking for Saturday night out of Columbia West. Missouri held off Texas A&M 28-21 at home to win the Eastern Division title and will face Auburn next Saturday in the SEC championship game.

“We’re still going to celebrate,” South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said. “A lot of us grew up in this state and know what this rivalry is about. No matter what happens, I can always say that I don’t know what it feels like to lose to Clemson because I never have and never will.”

For the No. 6 Tigers (10-2), it was a bitter pill to swallow. They’ve specialized in lighting up scoreboards, but haven’t scored more than 17 points in any of the their last five losses to the Gamecocks.

“We are playing a top-10 team, and every year, we have lost the turnover margin,” said Boyd, who was intercepted twice and lost a fumble. “Ultimately, I think that sums up the story every year.”

The South Carolina players view it a little differently.

Senior quarterback Connor Shaw, who finished his career 17-0 as a starter at home, suggested that it’s not just a coincidence that the Tigers seem to stink it up every year in this game.

“It’s like blood in the water when we play these guys,” said Shaw, who threw a touchdown pass and rushed for a touchdown. “We have respect for them, and they’re a good team. But I don’t know how they would do if they had to play in our league, just the grind of the SEC.

"We’ve played better teams than them this year. That’s just how we feel.”

Clowney, who said in the preseason that he could tell Boyd was scared when the Gamecocks faced him, wasn’t backing down from those comments after seeing Boyd struggle once again.

“Every year, we talk about the same thing when we talk about them,” Clowney said. “We watch them play other teams, [and] 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.”

But, then, that’s becoming the norm in this rivalry for the Gamecocks. Everything seems to work out in their favor.

“It’s just special for this program and for all the players on this team to know that we've never lost to Clemson,” Shaw said. “That’s something that nobody can ever take away from you.”