Clemson, SC – Dylan Thompson threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in a strong substitute start as No. 13 South Carolina continued its recent success against in-state rival Clemson with a 27-17 decision over the No. 12 Tigers at Memorial Stadium.
With regular quarterback Connor Shaw scratched due to a sprained left foot, Thompson completed 23-of-41 passes with one interception to lift the Gamecocks (10-2) to their fourth consecutive victory in the series between the Palmetto State foes.
Ace Sanders came through with 119 yards and a touchdown on six catches for South Carolina, while Bruce Ellington hauled in two of Thompson's touchdown throws in a historic triumph for Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier.
The win was Spurrier's 65th at the helm of the Gamecocks' program, moving him past Rex Enright for most in school history.
South Carolina's defense aided the cause as well, limiting a powerful Clemson attack that came in averaging 44.6 points and over 535 total yards per game to a modest 328 yards and intercepting quarterback Tajh Boyd twice.
"I'm really, really proud of our defense," Spurrier said. "That's one of the best offenses in the country, and we held them down fairly well, to 17 points. Offensively, we did what we sort of needed to do as far as playing sort of ugly. We ran for nothing and nothing and nothing and nothing, but we kept that clock churning away."
Boyd finished an off-target 11-of-24 for 183 yards while recording a rushing and passing touchdown for the Tigers (10-2), who saw a 13-game home winning streak come to an end and lost for the first time in its last eight outings overall.
"They disrupted our rhythm. We only got two plays in the third quarter and their 86 plays to our 59 was huge," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "You have to give them a lot of credit. Tonight was very disappointing. We played with great effort but that third quarter drive was critical."
Clemson scored touchdowns on two of its first three possessions to take a 14-7 lead after one quarter, but the South Carolina defense stiffened and Thompson engineered a pair of long scoring drives -- one prior to halftime and the other after intermission -- to put the Gamecocks in front.
The sophomore was on point during a 12-play, 79-yard march that began with South Carolina bottled back at its own six, making good on 5-of-6 pass attempts for 53 yards and adding a key 19-yard scramble on third down.
A 17-yard strike from Thompson to Sanders later on put the Gamecocks in range for Adam Yates' 29-yard field goal that cut the deficit to 14-10 late in the second quarter.
Thompson was sharp as well during South Carolina's initial series of the second half, firing a 31-yard bullet to Nick Jones to put his team into Clemson territory and finding an open Sanders down the middle during a 3rd- and-16 situation shortly afterward. The shifty wideout outraced the Tigers' defense for a 34-yard touchdown that staked the Gamecocks to a 17-14 edge just over three minutes into the third quarter.
After South Carolina forced a quick three-and-out on the ensuing drive, Yates extended the margin to six points with a 43-yard kick with 6:56 remaining in the period.
The field goal was set up by another clutch third-down conversion, with Thompson hitting Kenny Miles for a 24-yard gain on 3rd-and-10 to move the Gamecocks to the Clemson 25.
Clemson answered on its next touch, with Boyd hooking up with Jaron Brown for 38 yards to set up Chandler Catanzaro's 38-yard field goal that brought the Tigers within 20-17.
Thompson was intercepted in the end zone by Xavier Brewer to stop a potential scoring opportunity early in the fourth quarter, but South Carolina's Brison Williams returned the favor by picking off a Boyd misread less than a minute and a half later.
The Gamecocks would cash in this time, putting together a 13-play, 65-yard jaunt that began with Mike Davis' 26-yard scamper and was extended by Thompson's 20-yard scramble to the Clemson six on 3rd-and-19.
Three plays later, Thompson connected with Ellington for a 6-yard score to give South Carolina a 10-point lead with 4:17 to go, and the defense would make it stand by holding the Tigers without a first down the rest of the way.
Clemson's usually potent offense came out firing early on, with Boyd moving the unit 85 yards on 16 plays on the Tigers' second drive and capping it off with a 3-yard run for the game's first points.
South Carolina responded on its next trip, as Thompson went 4-for-4 for 56 yards and fired a 13-yard dart to Ellington near the back of the end zone to knot the score at 7-7 with 1:46 left in the first quarter.
It would take Clemson a mere 24 seconds to break the deadlock, however. Roderick McDowell broke free for a 32-yard run on the first play from scrimmage after Ellington's score, and Boyd connected with DeAndre Hopkins for a 43-yard touchdown on the subsequent play.
South Carolina's current four-game winning streak over the Tigers matches its longest in the series, having also posted four straight victories between 1951-54 ... The game marked only the second time the teams had both been ranked in the top-15, with the other coming in 1987 ... Clemson's last loss at home also came at the hands of the Gamecocks, a 29-7 defeat back in 2010 ... Boyd's touchdown pass to Hopkins was his 34th of the season, breaking his own school record he set last year.