The Tape: Clemson D-line solid, but Shaw the difference-maker

Posted by Josh Kendall on December 4, 2013 

Connor Shaw

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

Through four straight losses, Clemson lamented its inability to control the line of scrimmage against South Carolina. On Saturday, it did it at least defensively and still fell for a fifth straight time.

The Gamecocks, 31-17 winners, had virtually no luck with their traditional running game between the tackles against the Tigers. South Carolina got 27 yards out of its running backs . Clemson’s Roderick McDowell had one run of 28 and finished with 111.

“We couldn’t move those guys,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “But at least we had the quarterback draw play. That gave us a chance to make some yardage. That was the only chance.”

The Gamecocks’ interior offensive linemen were often dominated by Clemson’s defensive front, particularly in important moments, a review of the game by The State showed. On South Carolina’s opening drive of the third quarter, with the Gamecocks leading 17-10, sophomore running back Mike Davis could only gain one yard on third-and-2 and quarterback Connor Shaw was stuffed on fourth-and-1 the following play.

“That play is indicative of so many of these runs for Steve Spurrier tonight, just not getting any push between the tackles,” ESPN analyst Brock Huard said. “Dabo Swinney’s defensive line has been very, very solid.”

McDowell, meanwhile, did almost all of his damage up the middle, gashing the Gamecocks defensive tackles again and again.

The difference-maker for South Carolina proved to be Shaw, who gained 123 yards on the ground and finished with 94 rushing yards after sack yardage was subtracted. Shaw finished with a career-high 22 carries and rushed for seven first downs.

Shaw’s most important run didn’t convert a first down. It came in the third quarter after Clemson had tied the game 17-17 and facing third-and-13. The Gamecocks’ called a quarterback draw and Shaw ran for 12 yards, allowing Spurrier to line up in an attempt to convert the fouth-and-1, which Clemson did for the Gamecocks by jumping offsides. (Spurrier said after the game that he intended to snap the ball and attempt to pick up the yard.)

“This is the only run game they’ve got,” Huard said. “Spurrier has been searching for any kind of run action. I think this is going to be Connor Shaw’s fourth quarter and why not?”

Other observations from The Tape include:

-- Clemson’s defense was stunned by a 15-yard pass play to fullback Connor McLaurin. No Tiger defender was near McLaurin, who hadn’t touched the ball previously in his career.

-- Shaq Roland had a field day against both Clemson cornerbacks, Bashaud Breeland and Darius Robinson.

-- Clemson offensive tackle Brandon Thomas did a nice job at times when he was matched one-on-one against Jadeveon Clowney. On Clowney’s sack, Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd ran directly into Clowney’s grasp.

-- Swinney was incensed by the intentional grounding that cost the Tigers a realistic shot at a touchdown late in the first half.

“That’s a corner route, that’s a corner route,” Swinney screamed at the officials before calling timeout in order to express his displeasure more. He then ran off the field with the officials pleading his case again.

-- Time of possession once again proved the undoing of the Tigers. South Carolina controlled the ball for 38:09 to Clemson’s 21:51.

“How have they won four in a row over Dabo?” Huard asked early in the game. “Exactly what you are seeing on this drive, keep that prolific offense over on the sideline.”

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