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December 1, 2013

Five key plays

South Carolina defeated Clemson on Saturday, and here are five key plays from the Gamecock victory.

Watkins on the other end of a pass
Clemson took the opening kickoff and marched down the field with ease. The Tigers needed just six plays to get to the Gamecock 30-yard line. Then, they got too cute. Tajh Boyd received the snap, and then threw a backwards lateral to wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins planted his feet and threw as far as he could toward Adam Humphries. But Watkins is a receiver for a reason. His pass was a little short and a little late, allowing safety Brison Williams time to recover and make the interception in the end zone. Instead of taking an early lead, Clemson had to watch as South Carolina converted the turnover into a 17 play, 80-yard, eight minute touchdown drive.

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The Gamecocks were extremely successful on third downs, converting 8-11 in the first half. One of those failed conversions ended up benefitting South Carolina anyway. After Clemson tied the game at 7, the Gamecocks went three and out. Tyler Hull's punt was, typical for him, low and short. Humphries had to run forward to field the kick, and he misjudged it. The ball bounced off his shoulder pads and ricocheted backwards where it was pounced on by Skai Moore at the Clemson 39. The Gamecocks took advantage of the second chance and scored a touchdown five plays later.

Sack, Sack
After an Elliott Fry field goal gave the Gamecocks a 17-7 lead, Clemson needed a big play to slow the momentum. They got the big play, and then nearly scored. Watkins returned the kickoff 33 yards to give the offense good field position. On the first play, Roderick McDowell found a hole and rushed up the middle for 28 yards to the Carolina 39. Then, two Gamecock juniors who participated in Senior Day festivities took over. Kelcy Quarles burst through the middle of the line for a six-yard sack on first down. On second down, Jadeveon Clowney raced around the tackle for a 10-yard sack. Now facing third and 26, Clemson tried to get back into field goal range, but the swing pass to Watkins was broken up and the Tigers had to punt after the two big plays had given them good field position.

In the third quarter, both defenses committed critical offsides penalties on fourth down to give the offense a first down. Trailing by a touchdown in the third quarter, Clemson faced a fourth and 1 from the South Carolina 30. Dabo Swinney elected to go for it, and after a timeout Boyd tried to pick up the first on a quarterback keeper. He was stuffed at the line of scrimmage by a host of Gamecocks, but Cedrick Cooper was flagged for being offsides. The penalty gave Clemson the first down and a second chance. Just like the Gamecocks earlier, the Tigers took advantage and scored a game-tying touchdown three plays later.

What's good for the Tiger is good for the Gamecock.
On fourth and one from his own 34, Steve Spurrier sent the offense out. Then he called timeout. Surely he thought better of going for it that deep in his own territory. Nope, he sent the offense back out. Shaw used the hard count, and the Tigers bit, jumping offsides. The Gamecocks got a new set of downs without ever snapping the ball. The payoff was another long, clock-chewing touchdown drive to retake the lead.

Humphries had a terrible day. He had five catches for 45 yards, but he made several critical mistakes. After his muffed punt led to a Gamecock touchdown, things got even worse for him in the fourth quarter. Clemson forced a Gamecock punt after Boyd fumbled, gaining new life. But Humphries, who fielded the punt on the run, was stripped by Kaiwan Lewis. Kwinton Smith recovered the fumble, and South Carolina sealed the victory with another touchdown on the ensuing drive.

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