COLUMBIA — Steve Spurrier was late to his postgame press conference.
The No. 10 South Carolina coach had to wash the Gatorade out of his hair.
He wasn’t pleased about it. Spurrier said Gatorade baths are for winning bowl games.
However, South Carolina reserved a postgame shower for the Head Ball Coach in a regular-season game for a historic moment.
No. 6 Clemson turned the ball over six times as USC capitalized to score 18 points off those miscues to claim a 31-17 victory, giving the Gamecocks five consecutive wins in the series for the first time in school history.
“Wonderful win for our guys,” Spurrier said. “Amazingly, when we play these guys from Clemson, the script follows the same thing. We’re happy. We were very fortunate. They’re a good team that continues not playing very well when they play us for some reason.”
USC, however, wasn’t celebrating an SEC East title; Missouri beat Texas A&M 28-21 Saturday to claim the division.
Still, it was a big day against the Tigers. Ten years ago, Clemson (10-2) walked off the field and Williams-Brice Stadium 46 points better than in-state rival South Carolina (10-2).
Saturday, it walked off the field counting turnovers. Quarterback Tajh Boyd’s illustrious Clemson career will end without a win over the Gamecocks after he threw two interceptions and was sacked five times; Boyd threw for 225 yards on 19-of-27 passing.
However, it was his counterpart enjoying a rivalry victory.
“Connor Shaw, best quarterback in school history,” Spurrier said. “He’s probably the biggest difference maker for us.”
Shaw beat the Tigers primarily with his legs, rushing for 94 yards and one touchdown, but he also threw for 152 yards and another score while not turning the ball over Saturday to lead a senior class that never lost to Clemson.
“This is special,” Shaw said. “The seniors not losing to Clemson is huge. This is why I came to USC.”
The first three quarters were everything one would expect in a rivalry game. USC went up 17-7 early and led by seven at halftime before the Tigers tied the game at 17-all in the third quarter when Rod McDowell scored a 4-yard TD.
The Gamecocks answered on the next drive when Mike Davis ran in a 2-yard TD to put USC up for good with 11:47 remaining. Clemson would turn the ball over four times in the quarter.
“That’s football. You’ve got to overcome it,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “We played really hard and fought hard the whole game. Obviously the turnovers were huge. They had a couple of more big plays than we did.”
South Carolina’s go-ahead score came on a wild possession. USC faced a fourth-and-1 in its won territory, and after Spurrier tried to draw Clemson offside, he called timeout to talk it over. The offense stayed on the field — and got the Tigers to jump, giving USC a first down.
Spurrier said after the game that the plan was to snap the ball.
Then, Pharoh Cooper attempted a pass to Shaq Roland, who was interfered with by Darius Robinson and appeared to make the catch anyway. But the officials ruled the pass incomplete, upheld a review and invoked the 15-yard penalty and first down.
USC scored anyway as Shaw picked up 10 yards on a QB draw to convert a third down before Davis punched it in from four yards to go up 24-17 and to complete an 11-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 6:14.
“Come right out and get a stop, tie the game at 17-17, we’ve got all the momentum,” Swinney said. “That killed us.”
Clemson went on the offensive on the ensuing possession and converted two consecutive third downs to get to the USC 34 with 9:30 left.
On a second-and-9 run, USC defensive end Chaz Sutton stripped Boyd and recovered a fumble for a crucial turnover that ended Clemson’s drive at the Gamecock 30.
The Tigers got a stop and forced a punt, but Humphries fumbled on the return, and USC jumped on it at the Clemson 39.
USC took advantage again as Cooper threw a short pass to Brandon Wilds, who raced into the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown and a 31-17 lead with 3:44 remaining.
The Gamecocks had a chance to put up points to open the third quarter after Cooper returned the kickoff 55 yards, but they turned the ball over on downs when Shaw was stopped for no gain. However, Clemson couldn’t do anything with it and gave it right back on a punt.
The Tigers would tie the game at 17-all with 3:01 left in the third when Boyd hit Martavis Bryant for an 18-yard pass to set up a 4-yard TD run by McDowell.
Clemson had to feel good being down just 17-10 at halftime. The Gamecocks outgained Clemson 199-194 yards in the first half but completed 8 of 11 third downs and held the ball for 19:42 in the first 30 minutes.
The Tigers saw a promising first drive of the game end on a trick play that went wrong. Sammy Watkins tried to throw a wide receiver pass to an open Adam Humphries, but USC safety Brison Williams got there in time to pick off the pass in the end zone.
The Gamecocks then used a methodical, 17-play drive to go 80 yards and cap their first possession with a 3-yard TD run by Shaw to put USC up 7-0. The drive ate more than eight minutes off the clock.
The Tigers bounced back quickly when Watkins caught a 57-yard pass from Boyd, who then scored on an 8-yard TD run to tie the game with 2:45 left in the first quarter. Clemson needed just four plays to go 75 yards, taking 1:38 off the clock.
USC went three-and-out on its next possession, but a Tyler Hull punt bounced off returner Humphries’ pads for a fumble. The Gamecocks’ Skai Moore jumped on the loose ball, and they took advantage five plays later when Shaw threw to Shaq Roland in the corner of the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown that put USC up 14-7 on the first play of the second quarter.
After forcing a Tiger three-and-out, the Gamecocks used a 29-yard pass play from Shaw to Ellington to reach the Clemson 9. But USC couldn’t come away with six and instead settled for a 21-yard field goal by Elliott Fry to go up 17-7 with 8:25 left in the half.
The Gamecock defense then got to Boyd twice for sacks on the next drive. After South Carolina got it back and couldn’t do anything with it, Clemson took over with 3:07 left in the second quarter. Boyd was sacked again, but he completed a screen pass to McDowell, who went for 28 yards to convert a third down. After a 19-yard run by McDowell down to the USC 10, Boyd was called for intentional grounding, which forced a third-and-26. He got eight yards back on a run before Chandler Catanzaro nailed a 38-yard field goal to get the Tigers within seven heading into the locker room.
McDowell was one of the lone bright spots for the Tigers. He finished with 111 yards on 14 carries with the one TD.
“He was a man on a mission,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “He ran extremely well and caught the ball out of the back field well. He was very focused, very determined.”