On Senior Day, it was a group of freshmen who provided the spark to propel the Gamecocks past Clemson 34-17 on Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.
After falling behind 7-0 on the opening kickoff, South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier inserted freshman Stephon Gilmore into the lineup for the long-awaited debut of the Gamecock version of the Wildcat. Gilmore marched South Carolina 60 yards downfield, rushing for 20 yards and completing a 39-yard pass to freshman Alshon Jeffery. The Gamecocks would tie the score on Brian Maddox’s one-yard TD run.
“We planned it (for the second possession). He said, “Coach you’ve been saying that all year and I haven’t been in yet.” But we told him second possession to be ready. The thing about Stephon is he can make guys miss. He needs to get the ball,” said Spurrier.
“It was just instincts – I had fun out there,” Gilmore said.
“He’s a tremendous player,” said quarterback Stephen Garcia. “He might be taking my reps, but I don’t mind when he’s successful like that.”
On the ensuing Clemson possession, freshman DeVonte Holloman picked off Tiger quarterback Kyle Parker and returned it 54 yards to the Clemson 11-yard line. Two plays later, South Carolina took a 14-7 lead and never looked back.
“I had watched film all week and they had certain tendencies and it happened like it always happened and I just jumped in front of it and make a good play,” said Holloman.
Emphasis on Running Game Key
Going into Saturday’s match-up, the Gamecocks had planned on emphasizing the running game against the Tigers.
“We ran the ball and that’s obviously what we need to do to win. A lot of people advised us to do that and we took heed to that. We took heed that we need to put the ball on the ground and not ask our offensive line to pass block much,” said Spurrier.
Whether it was Garcia, Maddox or redshirt freshman back Kenny Miles, the Gamecocks kept the ball on the ground, rushing 58 times for 223 yards. Miles had a career day, carrying 17 times for 115 yards.
“[Miles] brings another dimension to our offense and he’s hard to tackle,” said Garcia.
“You rush, you do what you can, you fight to get the tough yards,” said Miles. “The offensive line did a great job of zone blocking today. It feels great to come out today and have numbers like that.”
The ability to run the ball successfully enabled the Gamecocks to maintain a hold on the game and keep Clemson’s offense off the field. South Carolina dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for 36:31 compared to Clemson’s 23:29.
Don’t Forget About the Defense
Winning Saturday’s game certainly took a stout effort from South Carolina’s defense as the Gamecocks held the Tigers 21 points below the season scoring average. Heisman hopeful CJ Spiller was contained for most of the day, rushing only nine times for 22 yards. His longest gain was only for five yards.
“Our kids did a good job of playing the backside well where he likes to cut it outside,” said Assistant Head Coach Ellis Johnson. “We did a good job of playing physical but not being overly aggressive.”
The Gamecocks forced their first turnovers since the Alabama game, recovering two fumbles and snagging an interception.
“You saw what happens when we force turnovers,” said senior Eric Norwood. “We played ball and did what we were supposed to do.”