Defense rises to the occasion

Defense rises to the occasion

South Carolina's defense made itself known against the Clemson Tigers this weekend as they dominated the Tigers' potent offense in the second half to help the Gamecocks bring home their fourth-straight victory over the Tigers.

Much was made of the highly anticipated matchup between Clemson's high-scoring offense and South Carolina's powerful defense.

Tajh Boyd was busy quarterbacking Clemson to some monstrous numbers in conference play, albeit the ACC, and Jadeveon Clowney was busy showing everyone why he was such a highly-rated recruit coming out of high school.

A top-notch offense versus a top-notch defense. What's not to like?

The outcome of the game would likely be determined by one of these two units on Saturday night.

The one that did was the Gamecocks' defense.

The Gamecocks dominated the Tigers' offense in the second half as they walked away with a 10-point victory and fourth straight win over the Clemson Tigers. A big reason why was the efforts of Gamecocks star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Clowney finished the game with seven total tackles and 4.5 sacks. The sack totals for Clowney gave him the single-season record for sacks at South Carolina and the record at Clemson's Memorial Stadium for most sacks in a game.

So, the most sacks in a game at Clemson's home stadium are held by a Gamecock? Talk about the irony.

Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward mentioned after the game that he had "misled" Clowney to challenge him against the Tigers. Ward told Clowney that Ingram had six sacks in the 2011 victory over the Tigers and that really motivated the sophomore to go out and play his best on Saturday night.

He only ended up with 4.5 on the evening, but I don't think anyone is disappointed.

Clowney's performance, along with Carolina's, in the second half really neutralized the high-powered Clemson offense. The time of possession for Clemson in the second half was only 6:41 compared to Carolina's 23:19. The Tigers were 0-for-4 on third down conversions in the second half and only ran 19 offensive plays after halftime.

The Gamecocks defense found some ways to rattle the Tigers' quarterback according to Coach Ward.

"I've got a very good coaching staff and we thought we had a good game plan going in to try to get Tajh," said Ward after Saturday's win. "We studied their protection enough that we knew we had some guys on the offensive line that we thought we could run some and make him move his feet. We knew that when he didn't get his first read, he was going to take off and run."

Boyd has given the Tigers another running option this year at quarterback after he lost nearly 20 pounds this offseason and was the Tigers' second leading rusher entering the South Carolina game on Saturday.

There was no room to run for Boyd this weekend, though, as the Gamecocks forced pressure on the starting quarterback and got him out of his comfort zone. Getting Boyd on the run and into uncomfortable situations was big for South Carolina as he threw two interceptions in the game, including the third interception for Devonte Holloman of his career against Clemson. Brison Williams' interception set up the final scoring drive for the Gamecocks that sealed the deal with a Dylan Thompson touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington with just under five minutes remaining in the game.

It wasn't always easy for the Gamecocks in this game, though, as USC struggled in the first half keeping their emotions in check. It led to some missed tackles even though they were in position to make a play.

"We settled down after being really emotional early," Ward said. "We missed some tackles. That's the kind of little things that show up. We were in positions to make plays, even on the deep balls they completed. We were right there. We knew that if we could limit the big plays, we would have a chance."

You can tell the South Carolina defense settled down in the game based on their performance in the second half. To be able to limit a team that's in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense, total offense and passing offense was an impressive feat for the Gamecocks.

South Carolina may have left Death Valley with a victory but Clowney left thinking he could have done more.

"I probably could have done a lot more than I did tonight,"

Could you imagine what more Clowney could have done Saturday night? It's a scary thought but Clemson will likely see him just one more time according to Coach Spurrier.

"We've got him for one more year, and we're going to shake his hand and thank him for everything he's done for South Carolina," said Coach Spurrier.

You can bet Clemson fans are happy to hear that.

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