Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney speaks in the Smart Family Media Center at the Smart Family Media Center at the Poe Indoor Practice Facility in Clemson, S.C. Tuesday, Nov 21, 2023.

No. 24 Clemson vies for supremacy vs. rival in Palmetto Bowl

This season has not lived up to the lofty standards of No. 24 Clemson, but coach Dabo Swinney and his Tigers have a chance to settle a score when they visit South Carolina on Saturday night in Columbia, S.C.

Clemson (7-4) resides in seventh place with a 4-4 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play. The four-loss season is the Tigers’ first since 2011.

Within that span are a pair of national titles in 2016 and 2018, both over Alabama. The Tigers are 28-10 across the past three seasons.

However, they have had good luck in the state capital against their Palmetto Bowl rival.

Swinney’s team has won four straight on the road there, but South Carolina is 5-1 at home this season.

“Obviously it’s one of the best atmospheres in college football,” Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik said. “They’ve got great fans. Excited to get down there. We love playing on the road, so it’s going to be a fun game, for sure, and a lot of energy and super cool.”

In a season in which the Tigers did not even approach making the ACC Championship game, state bragging rights mean more than ever.

A Birmingham (Ala.) native who played for the Crimson Tide, Swinney understands the rivalry’s intensity.

“What makes it unique is the same thing that makes Alabama-Auburn unique and that is, there’s no pro sports in this state,” Swinney said. “You’re not going to be able to live in (South Carolina) long without going, ‘OK, what’s going on around here? These people are crazy.’”

Former President Donald Trump will attend the game, but Swinney was non-committal in his feelings about the appearance.

“I don’t care who comes to the game,” Swinney said during his Tuesday press conference. “I just care about who’s playing in the game. Unless (Gamecocks coach Shane Beamer) is going to put him in and throw him a halfback pass or something.”

South Carolina (5-6) won 31-30 last year in Clemson, but the Tigers were triumphant in seven straight meetings before that and lead the all-time series 72-43-4.

Beamer’s Gamecocks are coming off their best win of the season, a 17-14 rally at home over Kentucky.

The Wildcats (6-5) were 5-0 and ranked No. 20 before a loss at top-ranked Georgia sent their campaign into a tailspin.

Last Saturday, Spencer Rattler went 19-for-27 for 207 yards and two scores. Xavier Legette had six catches for 94 yards and both touchdowns.

That connection was critical down the stretch as the duo kept a drive alive with a third-and-15 completion. Legette’s second TD catch was the game-winner — a 17-yarder with 7:44 remaining and his team trailing 14-10.

Now it’s time for Saturday’s game with bowl eligibility on the line.

“It’s been an emotional year. It’s been a tough year in a lot of ways,” Beamer said. “We’ve had three good Saturdays in a row and then it’s rivalry week. … There’s the bowl game part of it.”

Beamer also said his team’s good health included star receiver Antwane “Juice” Wells, who practiced last week and could play Saturday. He has been sidelined since Week 3 of the season due to a lower-body injury.

–Field Level Media

Nov 11, 2023; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) throws for a touchdown against the Vanderbilt Commodores in the first quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Spencer Rattler propels South Carolina to rout of Vanderbilt

Spencer Rattler threw for 351 yards and accounted for four touchdowns as South Carolina cruised to a 47-6 romp over Vanderbilt on Saturday in Columbia, S.C.

Mario Anderson rushed for a season-high 102 yards and a touchdown on nine carries for the Gamecocks (4-5, 2-6 Southeastern Conference).

The Gamecocks reached 400 yards of total offense midway through the third quarter and scored the game’s first 27 points.

South Carolina has defeated Vanderbilt on 15 straight occasions.

The Commodores (2-9, 0-7) were shut out until Ken Seals hit Quincy Skinner Jr. with a 19-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The momentum didn’t last. Kicker Jacob Borcila missed the point-after attempt and the Gamecocks crushed Vandy thanks to an avalanche of the Commodores’ self-inflicted wounds.

With 11:20 to play, a bounced snap caused Vanderbilt’s Matt Hayball difficulty in getting off a punt. South Carolina’s Keenan Nelson Jr. blocked it, scooped up the ball and ran 18 yards for a touchdown.

Fumbles on Vanderbilt’s next two possessions set up a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, coming on Rattler’s 26-yard touchdown pass to O’Mega Blake and LaNorris Sellers’ 36-yard run.

Before Vandy’s lone score, South Carolina’s Ahmarean Brown caught a short throw from Rattler and turned it into a 24-yard touchdown with 7:09 left in the third quarter, extending the lead to 20-0.

After another Vanderbilt punt, South Carolina’s Anderson spun away from multiple tacklers and sprinted 72 yards down the right sideline for a score.

Carolina dominated a mistake-filled first half, leading 13-0 thanks to a 233-53 edge in total offense.

The Gamecocks struck first as Rattler escaped pressure, rolled right and found Xavier Legette for a 39-yard toss to the Vandy 1.

Two plays later, Rattler hit Alex Huntley — who has primarily been a defensive tackle — with a 1-yard touchdown pass. A bad snap on the point-after kept the Gamecocks from adding more.

Vandy pinned South Carolina back to its 5 but the Gamecocks, keyed by Rattler’s 30-yard pass to Dijay Braswell to the Vandy 1, took a 13-0 lead after Rattler’s 1-yard sneak.

Vandy’s best first-half scoring chance came when Tyson Russell picked Rattler at the South Carolina 35, but the Commodores gained two yards before turning it over on downs.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Columbia, Missouri, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) throws a pass against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina looks for more success vs. Vanderbilt

South Carolina looks to continue its domination over Vanderbilt on Saturday when the Southeastern Conference teams meet in Columbia, S.C.

The visiting Commodores (2-8, 0-6 SEC) hope to stop two losing streaks: the 14-game drought against the Gamecocks (3-6, 1-5) in their annual rivalry, and this season’s current eight-game skid, the latest of which came last Saturday in a 31-15 loss to Auburn.

South Carolina snapped a four-game skid with a 38-28 home win over Jacksonville State. Spencer Rattler threw for 399 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went to Xavier Legette, who accounted for 217 receiving yards on nine receptions.

The Gamecocks were penalized 10 times for 100 yards and surrendered 421 yards of offense (225 rushing) to JSU, while allowing 10 of 19 third-down conversions.

“There’s a lot to clean up and a lot to correct,” South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said. “We were not good enough in a lot of areas.”

Rattler has carried the Gamecocks, surviving an early-season injury to preseason All-SEC wide receiver Juice Wells (who is expected to be out Saturday) and a lack of protection (37 sacks allowed) to throw for 2,516 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions, much of that going to Legette (50 catches, 973 yards, five scores).

South Carolina’s defense allows 433.6 yards and 31.1 points per game. Those would be league worsts if not for Vandy (435.5 yards and 33.9 points), which hasn’t stopped the run or pass.

Quarterback Ken Seals has helped settle down an offense that’s turned it over a league-worst 17 times. But Auburn sacked Seals five times last week and limited Vandy to 266 yards of total offense.

“I felt like Ken didn’t have time,” Commodores coach Clark Lea said Tuesday. “It’s frustrating because when you have an open route down the field and you need your quarterback to work through a progression, there has to be an understanding for the five guys up front plus the running back of how we’re going to pick it up.”

Vanderbilt’s last victory against South Carolina came in 2008 with a 24-17 decision in Nashville.

–Field Level Media

Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Marist Liufau (8) tries to sack the South Carolina Quarterback Spencer Rattler (7). The University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish took on the University of South Carolina Gamecocks in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl game in Jacksonville, Florida's TIAA Bank Field Friday, December 30, 2022. The first half ended with South Carolina holding a 24 to 17 lead.

Spencer Rattler, South Carolina rally past Jacksonville State

Spencer Rattler threw for 399 yards, 217 of them to Xavier Legette, and the pair connected on two touchdowns as South Carolina survived a visit from Jacksonville State 38-28 in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday afternoon.

Legette made nine catches, including a 65-yarder late in the third quarter that knotted the game at 28-28. South Carolina (3-6) of the SEC ended a four-game losing streak and kept alive its hopes for six wins and bowl eligibility.

Rattler, who played three years at Oklahoma and is in his second with South Carolina, went over 10,000 career passing yards early in the third quarter. He completed 27 of 38 passes and was intercepted once.

With the game tied at 28, South Carolina’s Jatius Geer forced a fumble and Debo Williams made the recovery at his own 45. Mitch Jeter culminated a 10-play drive with a tiebreaking 26-yard field goal with 5:51 to play.

Jacksonville State then drove to the South Carolina 15 with 2:16 to play, but Stone Blanton picked off a Zion Webb pass and went 88 yards to seal the win.

Jacksonville State (7-3) of Conference USA entered the matchup of teams with Gamecocks mascots as a 14-point underdog, but it hung around thanks to two touchdown passes from Webb and another from Logan Smothers. Sean Brown caught scoring tosses from each quarterback.

South Carolina put up 488 yards in total offense to 421 for Jacksonville State.

Perry Carter caught a 54-yard touchdown pass from Webb to give Jacksonville State its only lead of the game at 28-21, and Anwar Lewis rushed for a 4-yard score in the second quarter.

Rattler and Tonka Hemingway, a defensive lineman in on offense, scored short rushing touchdowns for South Carolina in the first quarter.

Webb was 12-for-23 passing for 183 yards and rushed for 65 yards, Carter made five catches for 106 yards and Ron Wiggins rushed for 88 yards for Jacksonville State.

Jacksonville State trailed 21-14 at halftime but Tarnue Kekoura picked off a deep pass by Rattler on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter. The visitors then went 73 yards in eight plays, capped by Smothers’ 13-yard touchdown pass to Brown.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; College Station, Texas, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) looks for a pass against Texas A&M Aggies during the first quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina looks to end skid vs. Jacksonville State

The South Carolina Gamecocks might be down, but they’re not out.

That’s the message from coach Shane Beamer, whose team steps out of the rugged Southeastern Conference to host Jacksonville State of Conference USA on Saturday afternoon in Columbia, S.C.

South Carolina (2-6) fell to 1-5 in the SEC when it lost 30-17 to Texas A&M last weekend in College Station, Texas. Now Beamer’s team needs victories in its last four games — all in Columbia — to reach six wins and gain bowl eligibility.

If that appears somewhere between highly unlikely and downright impossible, nobody told the players.

“You would have thought we were playing for the freaking Super Bowl the way we practiced out there today,” Beamer said Tuesday at his weekly press briefing.

Quarterback Spencer Rattler has completed 69.5 percent of his passes and thrown for 2,117 yards and 12 touchdowns. The offense is averaging 25.4 points per game.

However, South Carolina’s downfall has been its defense: No. 106 of 130 FBS teams in scoring defense at 31.5 points per game, and 114th in total defense (435 yards per game).

An additional problem for Beamer came Sunday when defensive back DQ Smith, who was ejected against Texas A&M after a targeting penalty, lost his appeal to the NCAA and will have to sit out the first half on Saturday.

Jacksonville State (7-2) is looking to capitalize, although it enters as a 15-point underdog.

Coach Rich Rodriguez’s team has played its last five games on weeknights, leading to the tag of a “reality show.”

“The five-week reality show is over, and now it’s a normal Saturday. It’s not normal when you’re playing an SEC team on the road, but at the same time, it’s a great opportunity,” Rodriguez said.

“If you polled most of our players, it’s like, yeah, I love playing an SEC team or playing against the best to measure themselves, and that’s what they get to do this weekend.”

The tag-team quarterback duo of Zion Webb and Logan Smothers have combined to throw for 1,386 yards and eight touchdowns with five interceptions, and running back Malik Jackson is averaging 5.4 yards a carry en route to 615 yards.

In Jacksonville State’s 41-16 defeat of host Florida International in Miami on Oct. 25, Webb threw for 105 yards and one score, and rushed for 125 yards and two more touchdowns.

Saturday’s game will mark the first time that collegiate teams using the Gamecocks mascot have faced each other.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; College Station, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Ainias Smith (0) runs for a touchdown against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the second quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M’s second-quarter surge sinks South Carolina

Texas A&M’s offense produced a three-touchdown stretch in the second quarter, including two inside the final two minutes, that led to a 30-17 victory over South Carolina on Saturday afternoon in College Station, Texas.

The Aggies (5-3, 3-2 SEC West) broke a two-game skid by getting rushing touchdowns from Rueben Owens and Amari Daniels and a TD catch by Ainias Smith (six catches, 118 yards). Randy Bond was good on 3 of 4 field goals.

Texas A&M’s Max Johnson went 20-of-30 passing for 249 yards, while the offense managed 354 total yards to South Carolina’s 209.

Texas A&M has won nine of 10 meetings between the schools since 2014.

The Gamecocks (2-6, 1-5 SEC East) got scores from Dakereon Joyner and Joshua Simon but lost for the fourth straight time.

Spencer Rattler completed 20 of 33 passes for 176 yards and was sacked four times.

Late in the first quarter, Joyner — on his second straight play out of the Wildcat formation — danced in from a yard out on fourth down at 2:04 for a 7-0 Gamecocks lead.

The impressive drive went 65 yards on 13 plays, with Rattler connecting twice to Nyck Harbor on a pair of third-and-long plays to keep the series moving.
In the second, Johnson got the Aggies’ offense in gear on a six-play, 55-yard drive. That series ended with Owens cutting back from the right side and dashing 14 yards to even it at 7-7.

Right before halftime, Texas A&M strung together two touchdowns in a span of 52 seconds to create some separation at 21-7.

Daniels was stopped on third-and-goal at the 1 but bounced off a tackle and fell into the end zone for his third score and the Aggies’ first lead.

After the Aggies forced a punt, Johnson found Smith on a long pass that ended with the electrifying receiver cutting back twice on a 42-yard score, his first TD reception.

The Gamecocks’ Mitch Jeter booted a field goal from 49 yards less than five minutes into the third, but Bond matched it from 26 yards out late in the frame.

On the first play of the final quarter, Rattler’s two-yard TD pass to Simon trimmed it to a single score, but Bond nailed a 24-yarder to push the lead to 27-
17 and added a career-long-tying 52-yarder with 7:39 left.

–Field Level Media

Oct 14, 2023; Knoxville, TN, USA; Texas A&M quarterback Max Johnson (14) talks with Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher during a football game between Tennessee and Texas A&M at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. Mandatory Credit: Brianna Paciorka-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M faces leaky South Carolina defense

South Carolina and Texas A&M enter Saturday’s Southeastern Conference game in College Station, Texas, looking to halt losing streaks.

The Aggies (4-3, 2-2) opened as a two-touchdown favorite and have won eight of nine meetings between the schools, who have played each other every season since 2014. South Carolina won last year at home, 30-24.

Before last weekend’s bye, Texas A&M lost consecutive one-score road matchups against premier SEC talent: then-No. 11 Alabama 26-20 and former No. 19 Tennessee 20-13.

Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday that morale heading into the final five games is strong despite consecutive losses and two weeks to prepare for the Gamecocks (2-5, 1-4).

“You’re always resetting your goals and what they are,” Fisher said. “You break the season down into four-game increments. … You want to run (the rest of the table), but you do it one at a time.

“We can have a very successful season (at 9-3) — not exactly what we wanted, but at the same time we can have a heck of a year.”

Meanwhile, South Carolina has lost three straight games and is ahead of only Vanderbilt in the SEC East.

The problem facing coach Shane Beamer’s team has been defense, which has allowed at least 30 points in each of its last four games, including a 37-30 win over Mississippi State on Sept. 23.

Despite generating 20 first downs in Saturday’s 34-12 loss at then-No. 20 Missouri, the South Carolina offense produced just 286 total yards and a dozen points — on Mitch Jeter’s four field goals.

Also, the Tigers sacked Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler six times.

“We’ve got to do a better job of protecting,” Beamer said. “We tried. We were chipping. We were max-protecting. We were moving the pocket. We were trying to get the ball out of his hands quickly.”

Among receivers, South Carolina’s Antwane “Juice” Wells Jr. (foot injury) has missed a month of play, and Xavier Legette (upper body) has no timetable to return.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers running back Cody Schrader (7) runs the ball against South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Judge Collier (20) during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

No. 20 Missouri scores early, cruises past South Carolina

Cody Schrader rushed for a career-high 159 yards and two touchdowns as No. 20 Missouri extended its command of South Carolina with a 34-12 home victory Saturday in Columbia, S.C.

Brady Cook completed 14 of 24 passes for 198 yards, throwing one touchdown pass and running for another score as the Tigers (7-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) beat the Gamecocks for the fifth straight time to retain the Mayor’s Cup.

The series was established when Missouri joined the SEC in 2012 as both schools are located in cities named Columbia.

For the first time in Shane Beamer’s three seasons as coach at South Carolina (2-5, 1-4), the Gamecocks have lost three straight games.

Facing a consistently heavy rush, South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler completed 23 of 40 passes for 217 yards and one interception.

Dominating an injury-riddled South Carolina offensive line, Missouri sacked Rattler six times.

The Tigers scored on four straight possessions, surging to a 24-0 lead before Mitch Jeter ended the Gamecocks’ drought with the first of his four field goals, a 51-yarder, in the final minute of the first half.

Rattler drove the Gamecocks to the Tigers 20 on South Carolina’s first possession. But Joe Moore stopped the march, sacking Rattler for a 13-yard loss and Jeter missed a 51-yard field-goal try.

Missouri answered quickly as Cook lofted a 42-yard touchdown pass to Luther Burden III, who beat double coverage to give Missouri a 7-0 lead.

Burden, who entered the game second in the FBS in receiving yards (808) and fourth in receptions (56), finished with four receptions for 90 yards.

On the Tigers’ next two possessions, Schrader capped a 59-yard march with a 10-yard touchdown run, then Cook culminated an 87-yard drive with a 17-yard dash that made it 21-0.

In the second half, South Carolina whittled the deficit to 27-12 before Jaylon Carlies made a game-clinching interception with 6:20 left and Schrader followed with an 11-yard touchdown run.

South Carolina’s top receiver Xavier Legette departed in the second quarter. He was injured as he was tackled on a kickoff return.

Harrison Mervis kicked field goals of 53 and 21 yards for Missouri. The senior has made 13 kicks of 50 yards or longer in his four seasons.

Mario Anderson rushed for 68 yards on 12 carries for the Gamecocks.

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators quarterback Graham Mertz (15) throws the ball during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, October 7, 2023. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Florida looking to solve road struggles at South Carolina

Florida and South Carolina have a lot in common heading into Saturday afternoon’s Southeastern Conference clash in Columbia, S.C.

Both are trending positively under relatively new head coaches and are led by quarterbacks who are entering their fourth season as the starter of a Power Five program.

In Shane Beamer’s third year, the Gamecocks (2-3, 1-2 SEC) are seeking their third winning season and another trip to a bowl game.

In Billy Napier’s second season at Florida, the Gators (4-2, 2-1) are trying to figure out how to win on the road. His teams are 9-2 at the Swamp but just 1-7 away from home.

“Williams Brice is one of the tougher venues and better venues in the country,” Napier said Monday. “We need to accept the challenge and take the next step.”

Florida is coming off an impressive 38-14 home win over Vanderbilt in which it flashed its balanced offense.

Graham Mertz completed 30 of 36 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, while Montrell Johnson Jr. (18 carries for 135 yards) and Treyaun Webb (four carries for 70 yards) thrived on the ground.

The Gators also got a breakout from freshman tight end Arlis Boardingham with seven receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns.

South Carolina is coming off a bye week, good medicine after a 40-21 loss at then-No. 21 Tennessee on Sept. 30, the Gamecocks’ third defeat to a ranked team.

The Volunteers sacked quarterback Spencer Rattler six times, intercepted him once and limited him to 169 yards and no touchdowns. It was a stark departure from last year against Tennessee when Rattler threw for 438 yards and six TDs in a 63-38 romp.

“We have to play and coach better on the offensive line,” Beamer said Tuesday. “Part of the bye week was being able to step back and kind of re-evaluate everything and think outside of the box.”

Beamer hinted at a lineup change and said that veteran offensive lineman Jakai Moore will return after missing the Tennessee trip with an injury.

The Gamecocks will likely be without All-SEC wideout Juice Wells, who Beamer said is “doubtful.”

–Field Level Media

Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright (0) and quarterback Joe Milton III (7) celebrate Wright's touchdown during an NCAA college football game between Tennessee and South Carolina in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.

Jaylen Wright powers No. 21 Tennessee past South Carolina

Jaylen Wright rushed for 123 yards on 16 carries and scored a touchdown to help No. 21 Tennessee to a 41-20 win against visiting South Carolina in an SEC game on Saturday night.

Joe Milton III completed 21 of 32 passes for 239 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, and wide receiver Squirrel White caught nine passes for 104 yards for the Volunteers (4-1, 1-1 SEC).

South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler finished 24-of-35 for 169 yards and an interception.

Mario Anderson rushed for 101 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown for South Carolina (2-3, 1-2).

Tennessee running back Jabari Small scored on a 2-yard run with 42 seconds left in the first quarter to give the Volunteers a 14-10 lead and they kept the lead the rest of the way.

Wright scored on a 42-yard run on Tennessee’s first possession for a 7-0 lead.

Mitch Jeter kicked a 36-yard field goal to trim the lead to 7-3, and DQ Smith then intercepted Milton’s pass over the middle and returned it to the Tennessee 30.

On third-and-goal from the 6, Rattler scrambled up the middle and stretched the ball across the goal line to give the Gamecocks a 10-7 lead with 2:03 left in the first quarter.

Tennessee answered with a 50-yard reception by White that set up the 2-yard touchdown run by Small, moving the Volunteers ahead for good 14-10.

Charles Campbell’s 24-yard field goal extended Tennessee’s lead to 17-10 with 8:50 left in the first half.

Rattler overthrew a sideline pass on third-and-22 and Kamal Hadden intercepted it, running it back 28 yards for a touchdown for a 24-10 lead with 47 seconds left in the half.

The Volunteers received the second-half kickoff and marched 75 yards in 12 plays, extending their lead to 31-10 on a 6-yard touchdown catch by Jacob Warren.

The Gamecocks quickly struck back on a 75-yard touchdown run by Anderson to trim the deficit to 31-17 with 10:28 left in the third.

Campbell tacked on a 33-yard field goal with 12:42 left to stretch the lead to 34-17. Jeter answered with a 47-yarder to cut it to 34-20 with 8:35 left.

Dylan Sampson tacked on a 6-yard touchdown run for the Volunteers with 4:09 left to make it 41-20.

–Field Level Media