Clemson Defense Downs South Carolina, 16-7

Dick Cox

November 29, 2023 at 11:44 am.

The South Carolina vs. Clemson game turned in to a battle of two ugly offenses and only one offensive touchdown as the Tigers survived to take a 16-7 win over the Gamecocks in front of a sellout crowd of 80,172.

The game basically came down to three controversial plays.

On the second play of the game Gamecock quarterback Spencer Rattler’s swing pass to Xavier Leggette was dropped. The ball bounced off Leggette’s hands and everyone thought it was an incomplete pass. Clemson freshman defensive back Khalil Barnes scooped up the ball and jogged to the end zone unsure if the ball was a fumble. Everyone stopped on the play, but when Barnes crossed the goal line the all ACC officiating crew signaled touchdown. Even when the play was reviewed and it clearly showed the pass was a forward pass, the officials ruled that there was not enough evidence to change the play, and gave Clemson the only touchdown that they would score the entire game.

Carolina was able to bounce back and tie the score at 7-7 on a fourth down one-yard run by Luke Doty. Following South Carolina’s only TD in the first quarter, they punted the next eight drives. During that time, the Gamecocks had a stretch in which they ran 25 plays and had a net gain of only one yard.

On the Tigers next drive they faced a third down in Gamecock territory and USC defensive back O’Donnell Fortune dropped a sure interception. Clemson kicked a 50-yard career long field goal by kicker Jonathan Weintz. Going into to the game, Weintz had only made 1-7 fields goals from 40 yards or more. He made field goals of 50, 49 and 42 yards in the evening.

The third controversial play came in the third quarter when Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik was about to take a big sack that would have taken the Tigers out of field goal range. As Klubnik was going down, he threw the ball away for what would have been an obvious intentional grounding penalty, but after reviewing the play the ACC officials said that he was outside the tackle box. The replay showed that the quarterback was inside the tackle box and the pass never made it back to the line of scrimmage. On the next play, Clemson kicked a 49-yard field goal. Those three plays resulted in 13 of Clemson’s 16 points.

Clemson Coach Dabo Sweeney said, “It was a great crowd, great venue, great environment to play a college football game. Both teams certainly competed really hard. But I’m just proud of the fight of our team. It’s been awesome to see. You know, we’ve been kind of battling you know, for a while to respond the way they have, from 4-4 to 8-4, undefeated in November.”

After the game an emotional South Carolina Coach Shane Beamer shared his thoughts on the state of the program.

“It’s as strong as it’s ever been in my opinion,” he said. “We’ve got a hell of a recruiting class coming in here, and we started five true freshmen throughout the season. We went through some lumps this year. We lost 12 players to season-ending injuries, six of whom were offensive linemen. That’s not making excuses. It is what it is. I don’t know if you saw before the game the committed prospects that were out at midfield with me; it’s a pretty freakin’ big-time group of players that are coming in here next season.

“All you had to do was be in that locker room right now with the young men in our program; that is a hurting bunch of players right now. The comments that the seniors made to the returning players about the future of this program and what this program was about made me extremely proud of them. We certainly need to be better from a NIL standpoint than where we are, I know that people here that are involved with that are working their butts off. We can offer guys a fantastic education, the opportunity to play SEC football, an unbelievable city to go to school in, culture and a program that’s real and not fake.

“Nobody’s patting ourselves on the back for going 5-7, but I think there’s a lot of teams that wouldn’t have been able to respond to the adversity that we faced throughout the season over and over again like we did. I just wish I had been able to do more as the head coach to get them over the hump tonight and get a win. That’s what hurts me are guys like Dakereon and those guys that have that have given so much to this program. I regret for them not being able to finish on a higher note. It’s something I’ll have a hard time getting over.”

Gamecock quarterback Rattler said, “That’s a really deep defense. They did a lot, got pressure on every single play pretty much, and they did a good job. Credit to them; they had a great scheme. Obviously great players really good up front, the linebackers, the DBs. They caused a lot of problems for us. I’m just sad we couldn’t play at a higher level. I put most of that on myself.

“Obviously I’ve got to do a better job throughout the game trying to make stuff happen. As a group, it was just tough for us to get things going. We had some momentum towards the end but just were really bad on third down. To score one touchdown and for them not to score one and we still lost. It’s like crazy, but we just played a really bad game.”

After playing what could be his final game at Carolina, Rattler went on to say, “This place meant everything to me. Coming here, being here two years and just enjoying every moment – the adversity, the success. I wanted to be a part of change in this program, and I feel like I put 110% effort into it every day- coming to the facility, leading like I like I know how, becoming a better person with Coach [Shane] Beamer and Coach Dowell {Loggains]. All these people are just top tier people, and I love them. I love this team. Sadly, we couldn’t get a better record this year, but we could have easily not won five games and just thrown the towel in. I just love these dudes.”

At halftime of the game the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, came out on the field to greet the sellout crown. Trump was the guest of South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster.

Clemson finished the regular season at 8-4 while South Carolina finished at 5-7.

Coach’s Postgame Report