COLUMBIA, S.C. -- When it comes to South Carolina, Clemson
players are always confident. And even Steve Spurrier on the
opposite sideline couldn't change that.
The Gamecocks and Spurrier had hoped to conclude a season of
surprise with their first victory over state rival Clemson since
2001. But behind James Davis' 145 yards rushing and Charlie
Whitehurst's unflappable leadership, the Tigers (7-4) defeated No.
19 South Carolina 13-9 on Saturday night.
Whitehurst completed three straight passes to dig his team out
from a first-and-35 hole, then Davis finished the drive off with
his winning 2-yard touchdown run with 5:58 to go.
There was little the Gamecocks (7-4) or their ballcoach could do
about it. After breaking long streaks of futility to beat Tennessee
and Florida this year, the team had given fans hope this was the
time to throttle Clemson. Davis and Whitehurst showed why it
"Clemson is not next," Tigers receiver Curtis Baham said of
South Carolina's thoughts of breaking yet another streak. "Coach
Spurrier's a great coach, but he's not going to play a down. We
just made one more play than they did."
Actually, they made many more plays down the stretch.
When two penalties on offensive lineman Chip Myrick backed up
the Tigers to a first-and-35, Whitehurst settled the team down and
prepared them to continue the drive. The fifth-year senior
completed consecutive passes of 9 yards to Davis, 14 yards to
Chansi Stuckey and 28 yards to Baham for a first down.
Davis took over from there. He went 23 yards to South Carolina's
4, then bulled in two plays later for the game's only touchdown.
Down 9-6 and facing long odds to keep the winning drive going,
the Tigers pushed ahead.
"I was thinking we were going to make the first down," Baham
said. "And I think everyone else out there was thinking the same
South Carolina had a final chance, driving to Clemson's 43 with
three minutes left. But on fourth-and-6, Blake Mitchell's pass was
tipped by Rashaad Jackson and intercepted by Charles Bennett with
2:26 to go.
Clemson sealed the win moments later when, on third-and-10,
Whitehurst ran for the first down, holding the ball in the air to
the mostly quiet stadium -- except for those orange-clad fans
saluting the first Clemson passer to go 4-0 against South Carolina.
"You know the game's over at that point," Whitehurst said.
"It's a relief and it's a lot of different emotions at that
For Spurrier, the loss continued his struggles with the Bowden
family. He'd gone 5-8-1 against father Bobby and Florida State and
now stands 0-1 against son, Tommy, although Spurrier was 4-2
against Auburn when Terry Bowden was the coach.
"We didn't play our best, we played OK," Spurrier said. "But
in a close game some of those misfirings and so forth can come back
and cost you."
The contest took a lot out of Spurrier. He left after only a few
minutes of his postgame news conference, his voice hoarse from
shouting on the sidelines.
The win was Clemson's fifth in six games to close the season.
South Carolina had won its previous five straight.
When it was done, both teams left in orderly fashion, unlike the
ugly brawl in the fourth quarter of this game a year ago. In a
symbolic show of putting that incident behind them, players from
both teams at midfield after the coin toss to shake hands.
South Carolina lost its chance at the Southeastern Conference
championship earlier Saturday with Georgia's 45-13 win over
Kentucky. If the Gamecocks were bothered by missing out on the
title, they didn't show it.
South Carolina's defense got after Whitehurst, intercepting him
twice to end drives and holding him to 27 yards passing in the
And while the Gamecocks offense put up nearly triple Clemson's
yardage, 251-84, they could only manage field goals of 23 and 43
yards by Josh Brown to lead 6-3 at halftime.
The Gamecocks have made a habit this year of scraping by -- and
it looked like it might happen again when Orus Lambert blocked a
go-ahead field goal try in the fourth quarter. Then Stuckey muffed
a punt and Tremaine Tyler recovered on the Tigers' 10. All the
Gamecocks could manage was Brown's third field goal.
Clemson's Davis is a freshman from Atlanta, who didn't know much
about this rivalry when he arrived. The upperclassmen taught him
very quickly how important it is.
"I know how bad my team wanted this game," he said. "They've
been talking about all year."