7:00 PM ET, November 19, 2005
Williams-Brice Stadium, COLUMBIA, SC
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 wasn't.
"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 thing."
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 point."
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 first half.
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."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Clemson's James Davis scored a two-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, capping an eight-play, 80-yard drive.
Gameball goes to... James Davis. The Tigers' running back finished with 144 yards on 27 carries.
Stat of the game... 4: Clemson increased its winning streak over South Carolina to four games.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||9-14||3-12|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||0-1|
|FG||0:16||JOSH BROWN 23 YD FG|
Drive info: 11 plays, 82 yards.
|FG||7:12||JOSH BROWN 43 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 66 yards.
|FG||2:29||JAD DEAN 49 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 48 yards.
|FG||7:43||JAD DEAN 23 YD FG|
Drive info: 19 plays, 74 yards.
|FG||10:46||JOSH BROWN 29 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, -1 yards.
|TD||5:58||JAMES DAVIS 2 YD RUN (JAD DEAN KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 80 yards.