Keeping ball from Clemson’s offense key to USC win streak

jkendall@thestate.comNovember 25, 2013 

Everyone knows the most important number — South Carolina has won four of the past four games against Clemson. Almost everyone knows these numbers, too — the Gamecocks have scored 124 points in that span to the Tigers’ 54, averaging a 31-13.5 victory.

There are other numbers, though, numbers that go a long way toward explaining those first two. They are the hidden reason, Steve Spurrier believes, that South Carolina has turned this series on its head.

For South Carolina’s coach, the most important statistical thread from the four games is this: the Gamecocks have held the ball at least 34 minutes, 43 seconds in each game, and have averaged more than 37 minutes of possession time.

“You look at all four of the games, our offense has moved the ball pretty well and stayed on the field, which has kept their offense over there (on the sideline),” Spurrier said. “I think that has happened in about all of them. Hopefully, it’ll happen again, although there is no guarantee of anything, of course.”

South Carolina held the ball 39:58 last season in a 27-17 victory.

“When you play against an offense that is really good like theirs, you hope not to give them so many possessions,” Spurrier said. “Everybody hopes that. Doing it is a different thing.”

The Gamecocks have done it. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ group thrives on dominating the ball. The Tigers aim to run at least 80 plays every Saturday, but Clemson has averaged 60.5 snaps in the past four years against South Carolina. In fact, the Gamecocks have run more plays than the Tigers in each of those games, and the average (76.3 plays per game for 5.2 yards per play for South Carolina vs. 60.5 and 4.1 for the Tigers) is not close.

South Carolina has gained more first downs and converted more third downs than the Tigers in each of the four games. Clemson also has undone its own efforts by averaging 2.25 turnovers the past four years compared to the Gamecocks’ average of .75.

If all these trends continue, the Gamecocks likely will win their fifth in a row against Clemson for the first time, but Spurrier believes winning the ball control battle won’t be as simple this week as it has been the past.

“I think Clemson’s defense is much improved over the last two years,” he said. “They are a tough defense, definitely, right now, probably a little bit better than last year and the year before. Brent Venables does a super job, and they get the ball back for their offense. Hopefully, we can stay out there a little bit.”

BY THE NUMBERS

A look at the stats during USC’s four-game winning streak against Clemson:

TOUCHDOWNS

Team ’12    ’11    ’10    ’09   
USC3434
Clemson   2111

FIRST DOWNS

Team ’12    ’11    ’10    ’09   
USC26191421
Clemson   18121314

RUSHING YARDS

Team ’12 ’11 ’10    ’09
USC134   210   95223   
Clemson   145706148

PASSING YARDS

Team ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
USC310   210   227   165   
Clemson   18383190212

TOTAL OFFENSE

Team ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
USC444   420   322   388   
Clemson   328153251260

TURNOVERS

Team ’12    ’11    ’10    ’09   
USC1002
Clemson   2133

OFFENSIVE PLAYS

Team ’12    ’11    ’10    ’09   
USC86736680
Clemson   59606261

TIME OF POSSESSION

Team ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
USC39:58   37:1   34:43   36:31   
Clemson   20:0222:4325:1723:29

THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS

Team ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
USC11-21   8-18   6-18   6-16   
Clemson   5-126-174-153-13

RED ZONE TRIPS/RED ZONE TDS

Team ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
USC5/2   4/3   3/1   4/4   
Clemson   2/13/10/00/0

OTHER STATISTICAL NOTES:

• Clemson has totaled 16 points in the second half the lpast four years

• Only one running back (Kenny Miles in 2009) has gained more than 100 yards on the ground for either time in the past four games.

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