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Nov. 26, 2011
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Connor Shaw threw for three touchdowns and ran for another to lead No. 14 South Carolina to a 10-win season for the first time in 27 years and its third straight victory over No. 18 Clemson, 34-13 on Saturday night.
The Gamecocks (10-2) choked off Clemson's once-high scoring offense, holding the Tigers (9-3) to 153 yards and Atlantic Coast Conference passing leader Tajh Boyd to 83 yards through the air.
Clemson was part of the BCS title talk a month ago when it opened 8-0 and rose to No. 6 in the country. But it heads to the ACC championship game against Virginia Tech next week a shaky team after losing three of its past four.
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South Carolina's only other 10-victory season in 118 years of football came in 1984.
Shaw played like a polished leader instead of raw sophomore making his seventh start since taking over for dismissed senior Stephen Garcia. Shaw's 15-yard touchdown run just before halftime put the Gamecocks ahead for good, 17-10. He increased the margin in the third quarter on a 2-yard scoring pass to Rory Anderson.
He was 14 of 20 passing for 210 yards and rushed for 107 to lead the Gamecocks.
Shaw cemented his place in this landmark rivalry win with an 18-yard strike to star wideout Alshon Jeffery, which sent most of the 83,422 at Williams-Brice Stadium into hysterics.
And they couldn't think of a better way to end the regular season.
In a state without major pro sports teams, this was supposed to be South Carolina's time in the spotlight. Instead, the Tigers bounced back from their first losing season in 12 years in 2010 to open 8-0 and push their way into the national championship conversation.
Boyd was a rising Heisman Trophy contender who threw for 24 TDs and three interceptions during that undefeated run. But he and the Tigers high-flying offense have crash landed since as Boyd's thrown seven interceptions his past four games.
He did break Clemson's single-season mark with his 28th touchdown pass, a first-half scoring throw to Dwayne Allen.
Still, it wasn't close to enough to keep up with South Carolina's defense. Boyd was sacked five times and was most always scrambling away to avoid even more. Clemson's offensive yards were a season low as was Boyd's production. His previous low was 204 passing yards in a 23-3 win at Virginia Tech.
The Tigers get another chance at a 10th win - and an ACC title - at Bank of America Stadium next week against the Hokies. But both those goals seem like pipe dreams the way Clemson's playing now.
The Gamecocks hadn't won three straight in the rivalry since 1968-70. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney will play in his second conference title game in the past three years, but fell to 1-3 against the Gamecocks and coach Steve Spurrier.
Both Clemson and South Carolina came in looking for a 10th win, a program landmark neither had achieved in decades. The Tigers hadn't gotten there since 1990, the tail end of its decade of dominance in the ACC.
Spurrier had been on a high the previous couple of weeks since the Gamecocks finished Southeastern Conference play with their best mark ever, 6-2, and had defeated its five other Eastern Division opponents, including Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. It wasn't enough to get them back to the title game, though, overtaken by Georgia's run of seven straight league games.
Still, South Carolina wanted to rack up as many achievements as possible and got going right away, with Shaw driving the Gamecocks 48 yards on their first series for a 47-yard field goal by Jay Wooten.
Clemson's offense continued its struggles of recent weeks. The Tigers went three-and-out its first two series and didn't get a first down until 12 seconds remained in the opening quarter.
South Carolina freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was held out the first quarter for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He returned in the second quarter and pressured Boyd several times.