Clemson’s win streaks are done. And so are its College Football Playoff chances.
South Carolina stunned No. 8 Clemson, 31-30, Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. The Tigers had won seven consecutive games against their rivals and 40 in a row at home, an ACC record.
Clemson needed to win its last two games, this one and Dec. 3 in the ACC championship game against North Carolina in Charlotte, to remain in contention for a playoff semifinal spot.
The Tigers will miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season for the first time since the format began in 2014. They won national titles in 2016 and 2018.
South Carolina got a 35-yard field by Mitch Jeter for the fourth-quarter lead and Marcellas Dial made an interception late in the fourth quarter. Clemson owned a 23-14 lead at halftime and was up, 30-21, after a touchdown run by Will Shipley in the third to cap a 75-yard drive. The Tigers fumbled a punt return as they were trying to get close enough for a field goal in the final three minutes.
There were nearly a pair interception returns for touchdowns on back-to-back offensive plays. South Carolina dropped its chance. Clemson didn’t. Jermiah Trotter Jr. stepped in front of a Spencer Rattler pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown for a 7-0 lead. Daruis Rush of South Carolina had a chance on a third-down pass by DJ Uiagalelei but couldn’t make the catch.
South Carolina was poised for a touchdown to get within 23-21 of Clemson in the final minutes of the first half. Rattler threw a pass to Ju Ju McDowell, who had gotten behind Andrew Mukuba. McDowell went 65 yards, but Mukuba tracked him down at the 1. RJ Mickens made a tackle with KJ Henry at the line of scrimmage and then backed up to make an interception.
Clemson ruined its chance to take control in the second quarter on a disastrous trick play. The Tigers had just recorded a safety by Ruke Orhorhoro following a punt to the 2 by Aidan Swanson. But on the ensuing kickoff by South Carolina, the Tigers had Will Shipley run into an on-field huddle with four other players. They went different directions, Phil Mafah had the ball and went 13 yards before he fumbled it away. The Gamecocks punched in a touchdown and Clemson’s lead was 16-14.
Uiagalelei was out in front on a run by Shipley and threw a key block that turned it into a 47-yard play down to the 13 in the first quarter. Uiagalelei ran it in from the 9, plowing through three defenders to the end zone for a 14-0 lead. Uiagalelei also had an 18-yard run in the first half, breaking tackles all along the way.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Clemson’s College Football Playoff hopes dashed in South Carolina loss