- Tajh Boyd feels Clemson is playing at the highest level going into the South
Carolina game that it has since he arrived on campus.
Tigers are averaging 51.5 points in their last four contests since their only
loss of the season to Florida State, and across that span Boyd has thrown 13
touchdowns to just three interceptions.
hitting on all cylinders at the right time," the record-setting senior said.
"We played some good ball in September and October, but we're playing our best
ball right here in November."
coach Dabo Swinney admitted nobody wants to beat South Carolina worse than he
does, but he also knows wanting to win won't nearly be enough.
gotten beat four years in a row, and nobody wants it to go to five," Swinney
said Tuesday at his news conference to preview Saturday's game in Columbia. "We
want to win the dang game. But wanting isn't going to do it."
Tigers (10-1) are focused on fixing the on-field factors that led to those
(last year's) game this week, and I missed some throws, we didn't protect as
well, we didn't run as well, we just didn't do anything we're accustomed to
doing and didn't perform to our capabilities," Boyd said. "For whatever reason
it happened that way. But I'm very confident in this team. I feel like this is
a different team, and we've just got to find a way to get it done."
biggest key to offensive execution versus South Carolina will be the Tigers'
success in blocking a stout defensive line led by Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy
Quarles, who have combined for 19.5 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks this season.
definitely a big factor in the game," senior offensive guard Tyler Shatley
said. "Another one is being able to run the ball. That will help take the
pressure off Tajh, as well. If we can run the ball and they're not expecting
pass every time, that will take a lot of pressure off of him."
running back Roderick McDowell is coming off his third 100-yard rushing game of
the season and admitted a victory Saturday would be an especially sweet way to end
the regular season.
away with a win, I think that would really be the stamp of my career and of the
season, not just for me, but for the program," McDowell said.
primary target all season has been Sammy Watkins, who became Clemson's career
receiving yardage leader against The Citadel last week and has at least one
touchdown reception in seven of his last eight games.
said a big part of the Tigers' recent play has been the improved chemistry
between he and receivers Martavis Bryant and Mike Williams, which has prevented
defenses from focusing all their attention on Watkins.
involved, it just comes throughout the course of a game," Boyd said. "Anytime
you try to put too much emphasis on it, it deters from what you're trying to do
as an offense. Sammy's going to get the ball, but you can't force-feed it to
him. ... We have other guys, NFL-caliber players, guys who are just outstanding,
and it's going to take a joint effort and a team effort for us to win the
defensive side of the ball, Clemson's top task will be stopping the Gamecocks'
ground game, which has averaged 211.2 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry for
the season, led by Mike Davis and his 1,112 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
impressed with the year that they've had running the football," Swinney said.
head coach said perhaps the biggest reason to believe his team had a chance to
end its rivalry skid was the improved play of the defense.
rank 18th nationally in scoring defense (20.2 points per game), lead the
country in tackles for loss (9.6 per game) and rank ninth in turnovers forced
"Are we the
best defense in the country? We haven't earned that, not yet," Swinney said.
"Have we improved greatly? Absolutely. And I think next year we have a chance
to take another step with the personnel that we have coming back and the
personnel that we have coming in.
is the most improved part of our team this year. Offensively, we've done a lot
of great things, but the defense is the most improved part of our team."
game (7 p.m., ESPN2) will be the first clash of top-10 teams in the history of
the series, as the Gamecocks enter the game ranked No. 9 in the coaches poll.
Carolina has won 17 straight games at Williams-Brice Stadium entering the
contest, which is a school record and the longest home win streak in the
"We all know
what this game's about," Swinney said. "But wanting to win doesn't get it done.
We've got to play great football, we've got to make big plays at critical
times, and we've got to take care of the football. This is why you play, why
you coach - to be in games like this."