Josh Vann ripped off his helmet and strutted toward the South Carolina sideline.
Weaving between the boosters and cheerleaders along the USC bench after quarterback Jason Brown undershot him for his second interception of the night, Vann stood in silence before receivers coach Justin Stepp enveloped him in an embrace.
Saturday, just about everyone associated with South Carolina’s offense needed a hug as the Gamecocks (6-6, 3-5 SEC) slogged to a 30-0 loss to in-state rival Clemson (9-3, 6-2 ACC).
Despite a resurgent run game in upsets of Florida and Auburn, USC returned to its wayward rushing self of the early season. None of South Carolina’s three tailbacks employed in the first half ran for more than five yards on a given rush. ZaQuandre White — who’d averaged seven yards per touch over his last four games — finished the opening 30 minutes with just 14 yards on his four carries.
Former St. Francis (Pennsylvania) quarterback Jason Brown fell back down to earth from the highs of upsets past. Brown finished his night completing 8 of 19 passes for 67 yards and two interceptions before being shelved for backup quarterback Zeb Noland in the third quarter.
Noland offered at least brief glimpses of offensive competence, though Clemson had already built a three possession lead by his insertion into the contest. Six of South Carolina’s 11 passes of six yards or more came via the arm of the former North Dakota State and Iowa State signal-caller.
Added to the roster in August after initially getting hired at USC to be a graduate assistant, Noland capped off one of college football’s more circuitous careers completing 11 of 22 passes for 96 yards.
South Carolina finished the night with 13 drives. Two of those resulted in negative yardage. Seven went for less than ten yards. Zero of those possessions resulted in any points.
While South Carolina stumbled through Saturday’s slugfest, it was the Clemson tailback duo of Will Shipley and Kobe Pace that bludgeoned the Gamecocks’ defensive front. After quarterback D.J. Uigalelei scampered for a third down conversion, Shipley ripped off a 29-yard touchdown run en route to a 10-carry, 86-yard first half.
Pace backed up Shipley’s initial effort with carries of two, five, four and nine yards. Taking a handoff from Uiagalelei on his fifth touch of the first half, Pace bounced off one tackler and busted through the orange and white-clad line for a 34-yard score of his own.
Tigers running back Phil Mofa joined the fun when he rocketed through the Gamecocks defense for a six-yard touchdown for Clemson’s third and final rushing score of the night.
The Tigers tandem of Shipley and Potter finished the night with a combined 186 yards on 26 carries as Clemson became the fourth of South Carolina’s last five opponents to run for more than 190 yards.
Clemson kicker B.T. Potter put the finishing touches on Clemson’s seventh-consecutive win over its in-state rival with field goals of 29, 39 and 47 yards.
As the clock ticked under three minutes remaining in Saturday’s contest, the jumbotron situated in the north end zone at Williams-Brice Stadium flashed a black and garnet graphic encouraging fans “Make some noise!”
But beneath the video board, the realities of South Carolina’s result came to pass. The previously packed student section had thinned out. The storm of towels that waved prior to kickoff operated more like calls for surrender than any form of excitement.
South Carolina’s season won’t end with the loss to Clemson. A bowl game remains on the horizon for a team that outperformed preseason prognostications.
But when head coach Shane Beamer returns to the sidelines at Williams-Brice Stadium next fall, he’ll have a nearly decade-long losing streak to snap come Thanksgiving Week 2022.
South Carolina has now lost seven consecutive games to Clemson. The Gamecocks’ last win in the series came in a 31-17 victory over the Tigers in Columbia.
Clemson’s seven-game winning streak is the longest such run in the series since winning seven games in a row between 1934 and 1940.
South Carolina’s offensive woes of weeks past returned on Saturday. The loss to Clemson marked the ninth time this season the Gamecocks failed to score 23 or more points against FBS competition.
The Gamecocks recorded just 12 yards of offense in the first quarter against the Tigers and ran for just
2 — Jason Brown threw two interceptions in the first 30 minutes of Saturday’s game
3 — South Carolina’s number of third downs in the first half
32 — South Carolina was shutout by Clemson for the first time in 32 years