Spencer Rattler threw for 360 yards and two touchdowns, Mitch Jeter hit the go-ahead field goal with 11 minutes left and South Carolina crushed the playoff hopes of a second consecutive top-10 team with a 31-30 victory at No. 8 Clemson on Saturday.
The Gamecocks (8-4, 3-2 SEC) were the talk of college football last week after their 63-38 dismantling of then fifth-ranked Tennessee, ending the Volunteers’ hopes of a College Football Playoff berth.
South Carolina and Rattler, who threw for 438 yards and six touchdowns against Tennessee, ended any chance Clemson (10-2, 6-1 ACC) had of reaching the CFP. The Gamecocks rallied from 14-0 down 10 minutes in to end Clemson’s seven-game series winning streak and 40-game home streak that dated to 2016.
Antwane Wells Jr. had nine catches for 131 yards, including touchdowns of 4 and 72 yards.
Clemson was looking to set a series record with its eighth in a row over South Carolina. And the Tigers were up 30-21 midway through the third period after Will Shipley’s 11-yard burst to the end zone.
That’s when Wells, the James Madison transfer, broke behind the defense for a 72-yard scoring catch two plays later.
After Clemson’s three-and-out, Rattler moved the Gamecocks to the Tigers’ 10 before Jeter connected for a 35-yard kick to go 10 of 10 on the season.
Clemson had no answer after South Carolina took the lead. The Tigers managed only 15 yards on three series as DJ Uiagalelei went a combined 0-of-6 passing with an interception.
Clemson got the ball back a final time with 2:09 left, but Antonio Williams fumbled on a punt return and South Carolina’s Nick Emmanwori recovered.
The Gamecocks went wild in celebration, rushing to the team’s fans and band in Death Valley’s West end zone.
Wells wrapped it up with his final catch for a first down with 1:04 left. Rattler took the final snap and joyfully heaved the ball high in the air.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks probably wish there was more left to the season. It’s been a landmark regular season in Shane Beamer’s second season as coach, with wins over ranked Kentucky, vs. Texas A&M and against the seemingly CFP-bound Vols before beating rival Clemson.
Clemson: This was not the way the Tigers hoped to head into the ACC title game against North Carolina next week. Clemson needed to win out and defeat the Tar Heels for any chance to reach the College Football Playoff.
South Carolina will await its bowl destination.
Clemson will face North Carolina in the ACC championship game next Saturday.
— The Associated Press