South Carolina bounces No. 8 Clemson from College Football Playoff, ends Tigers’ 40-game home winning streak

No. 8 Clemson is out of the College Football Playoff race after losing 31-30 to South Carolina, which snapped both a six-game losing streak in the series for the Gamecocks and the Tigers’ 40-game home winning streak that dated back nearly six years before any current Clemson player was on campus. Clemson also saw its 68-0 stretch of winning games after amassing a halftime lead under coach Dabo Swinney fall by the wayside.

Special teams took center stage in the Gamecocks’ win, a fitting statement for coach Shane Beamer, a longtime special teams coordinator. South Carolina punted from its own 19-yard line and forced a fumble by returner Antonio Williams that the visitors recovered to run out the clock. Punter Kai Kroeger had an unbelievable game with seven boots, five of which were downed inside the 20-yard line. Only one of those ensuing drives led to points for the Tigers. 

Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei completed just 8 of 29 passes for 99 yards in the worst performance of his career and a mark that matched his effort last year in this rivalry.

South Carolina QB Spencer Rattler followed his six-touchdown campaign in an upset of Tennessee by throwing for 360 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Antwane Wells hauled in eight balls for 126 yards and two touchdowns. 

South Carolina’s win over Clemson was the first since the Gamecocks beat the Tigers 31-17 in 2013. Connor Shaw was the quarterback of that Gamecocks team, and he led the program with 152 yards passing and 94 yards rushing.

Here are more takeaways from Saturday’s upset in the Palmetto Series. 

Statement finish to Year 2 under Beamer

It’s been several years since South Carolina has been a legitimate chaos team, but Beamer has the program right back where it belongs. The Gamecocks now have back-to-back wins vs. top-10 opponents for the first time in program history. They also have taken care of conference games that could have been losses in years past, beating Kentucky and a Texas A&M squad that ranks No. 4 in the 247Sports Talent Composite

Beamer has quickly become a favorite in Columbia, and for good reason. South Carolina is talented enough to cause issues for higher-ranked opponents in the SEC East and beyond. Getting back to competing with rivals and at least swinging for the SEC East race is a huge step for this program — and should quickly become a valuable recruiting tool for the affable Beamer. 

Clemson out of CFP running

Even if Clemson had beaten South Carolina, it’s possible it would have needed style points as a potential one-loss conference champion in the playoff hunt. However, the rivalry loss — giving Clemson its second regular-season loss of the season — closes any backdoor opportunity for Clemson to play its way in. The Tigers took care of business in ACC play with an undefeated 8-0 record, but nonconference matchups against South Carolina and Notre Dame ultimately doomed them in the CFP hunt. Dabo Swinney’s program has reached the highest levels of college football by dominating the ACC, but that is no longer be enough to compete on the national stage. 

Tigers’ QB woes continue

Uiagalelei has had a better statistical year as a junior, but his miserable effort against South Carolina only emphasized why questions continue to circle about the former five-star. Uiagalelei completed a paltry 28% of his passes and failed to reach 100 yards passing. 

South Carolina took a one-point lead with 10:54 remaining in the game. Clemson had three full drives to try to score just a field goal to retake the lead. The first ended with a three-and-out after consecutive incompletions. The second resulted in an Uiagalelei interception on the second play. The third ended with a punt after three incompletions. 

Clemson managed to win 10 games for the second straight season, but Uiagalelei remains a liability after two years as starting quarterback. Backup Cade Klubnik might be the answer, but it’s simply unpalatable to try and run this roster and system back in 2023. 

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