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COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina football team ended its 2015 season Saturday afternoon with a Palmetto Bowl matchup with rival Clemson. Early missed opportunities would prove costly for Carolina (3-9), who recovered a pair of first-quarter fumbles but were unable to convert them into points in a 37-32 loss.

Perry Orth passed for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the game, Deebo Samuel had a career day with 104 yards receiving and Lorenzo Nunez paced the ground game with 75 yards on 10 carries. Deshaun Watson had 393 yards of total offense to lead the No. 1-ranked Tigers (12-0).

The Gamecocks dug deep into their playbook early and often in the first half. A variety of play packages and three different quarterbacks (Orth, Nunez, Pharoh Cooper) would keep the Tiger defense guessing. The Gamecocks converted a key fourth down and made it all the way to the Clemson 24 on its second drive of the game, but Orth would be intercepted at the Clemson four-yard line.

Carolina’s defense would respond with turnovers on the next two drives to keep the game scoreless through the first quarter. The Tigers drove to the South Carolina 43, but Skai Moore would jar the ball loose and Rico McWilliams would recover it. It would come up with another fumble recovery after a botched a handoff on the next drive. Dante Sawyer would pick it up at the Clemson 39. Carolina would gain just three yards combined in the two drives following the turnovers.

Clemson would finally break through on its first drive of the second quarter. Watson found his receivers on a number of inside slant routes that picked up chunks of yardage at a time. He would keep it himself to cap the drive, taking in from five yards out for the touchdown. The visitors would add to their lead on the following drive, with Watson dropping a pass over the shoulder of Deon Cain for a 55-yard touchdown, capping a 94-yard drive that spanned eight plays. It would give Clemson a 14-0 lead late in the half.

The first half would close on a positive note, with the Gamecocks putting their first points on the board thanks to a field goal from Fry. It was set up by a 47-yard run from Nunez and a 25-yard run from Shon Carson. Orth hooked up with Cooper for 24 more yards on third-and-22, but Clemson tightened up inside the 10 and limited Carolina to just three points before intermission.

Any momentum gained would be taken back by Clemson coming out of halftime, with the Tigers benefitting from an official review on a fumble. Watson hit Artavis Scott over the middle for 27 yards to the South Carolina 30, but Scott was ruled to have fumbled at the end of his run. After review, the turnover was reversed and Watson would keep it on a 30-yard touchdown run on the next play for a 21-3 game.

Needing seven points to stay in it, Carolina’s passing game would lock in and look to Deebo Samuel for production. The freshman receiver picked up 65 of the team’s 76 yards on the 10-play scoring drive, including a 48-yard pickup. He capped it with a seven-yard catch to the back corner of the end zone from Orth and made it 21-10.

Clemson would get a touchdown on its fourth-straight drive (not counting a kneel-down before halftime) to take a three-score lead immediately after Carolina’s score. The Tigers ran the ball seven times during the 12-play drive, C.J. Fuller ended it with a four-yard dive. The Gamecocks responded with another big play through the air on their next drive, with Orth hitting a wide-open Cooper for 57 yards and his eighth receiving touchdown of the season.

A third fumble of the game from Clemson gave the Gamecocks the chance to cut even more into the deficit, and this time the home side would take advantage of the turnover. Shon Carson picked up 21 yards on a run down to the 1-yard line, and punched it in on the next play. After a two-point conversion it would be just a 28-25 lead for Clemson.

The defense would not be able to hold off Clemson on the next drive, the Tigers converted all three third-down plays and Watson ran for his third touchdown on the ground to make it 34-25 after a failed PAT.

Carolina would get three more possessions to close out the game, but would get just nine yards total out of the first two drives, the second of which gave Clemson the ball already in scoring position. The Tigers ran down the clock and kicked a field goal for a two-possession lead. Shon Carson would catch an 11-yard touchdown in the hurry-up offense on the team’s final possession, but left just one second on the clock for any onside kick attempt.

Game Changer

The Gamecocks appeared to have caught a break in Clemson’s opening drive of the half, as they recovered a fumble by Artavis Scott at the end of a 27-yard pitch and catch. It would be reviewed, though, and Scott was ruled down by an elbow before the ball came loose. Clemson would score on the ensuing play to take a 21-3 lead.

Key Stat

The Tigers converted on 9-of-13 third downs in the game, including a stretch of eight straight from the 7:10 mark of the second quarter until three minutes remained in the fourth. In that span, Clemson would score four touchdowns and gained 341 of its 515 total yards.


  • South Carolina’s 32 points were the most it has scored this season.
  • The Gamecocks wore their throwback garnet helmets for the game, the first time with them since 1998.
  • Perry Orth tied his career high with three touchdown passes. He finished the season with 12 touchdown passes and 1,929 yards through the air.
  • Clemson was held scoreless in the first quarter for just the second time all season, previously it happened against Louisville on Sept. 17. The Tigers have just five scoreless quarters all season.
  • Skai Moore led the defense with 13 tackles, pushing him over 100 for the season. The junior linebacker also forced a pair of fumbles.
  • With his second-quarter field goal, junior Elliott Fry moved into second place for field goals made in a single season (20) and second in career field goals attempted (70).


Interim Head Coach Shawn Elliott

“Our team fought to the very end. I made sure our coaches prepared these guys to fight for 60 minutes. The players believed. They came out, they fought, they made plays and they played with great effort against a great football team. They did everything in their power. There were a few plays here and there that could have gone the other way but I don’t fault our coaches, I don’t fault anybody on our staff. We did everything in our power to give us an opportunity to go out there and defeat the number one team in the nation, the Clemson Tigers. They (Clemson) played pretty well. They managed to make enough plays and came out on top. I can’t tell you how privileged I’ve been to be the interim head coach here. It’s been a great experience. I love those players and those players fight. There’s a lot of great men in that locker room. A team without a bunch of great men would’ve quit a long time ago. The win/loss record probably doesn’t say what type of men are in that room but they are special.”