Clemson wins Palmetto Bowl, beat South Carolina 37-32
COLUMBIA, SC (AP) - Deshaun Watson ran for three touchdowns and passed for a fourth as No. 1 Clemson capped an undefeated regular season by holding off rival South Carolina 37-32 on Saturday.
Watson came through with another stellar performance, passing for 279 yards and running for 114 to keep the Tigers on track for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Clemson is 12-0 for the first time since winning the 1981 national championship.
And they've got a chance to do it again. Next up is No. 11 North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game on Dec. 5 and a win would send the Tigers, who are first in the CFP ranking, to the national semifinals. South Carolina finished the season at 3-9.
As long as Watson's around, the Tigers' title chances are pretty good.
The Heisman Trophy hopeful had a 5-yard TD run and a 55-yard scoring pass to Deon Cain to put the Tigers up 14-0 lead. He added 30 and 3-yard touchdown runs in the second half.
Clemson extended its nation's best win streak to 15 straight games. But if it was looking for style points to impress the CFP committee, this was not the way to do it.
The Tigers fumbled three times as their 18-point lead was cut to 28-25 with 12:19 left on Shon Carson's 1-yard touchdown run and Lorenzo Nunez's 2-point conversion.
Watson, though, followed series with a 60-yard scoring drive that he ended with a 3-yard burst around the left side.
Carson added an 11-yard touchdown catch with a second left and Clemson gave up the most points South Carolina has scored all year.
Still, the Tigers went past 500 yards for an eighth straight game and did enough on defense to corral the struggling Gamecocks.
South Carolina ends the year on a five-game losing streak with interim coach Shawn Elliott, who took over last month with Steve Spurrier's resignation. The next coach also won't have playmaking standout Pharoh Cooper, who took part in Senior Day festivities after saying he'll give up his final college season for the NFL draft.
Clemson looked a shaky early on, fumbles ending two of the Tigers' first two drives. Gallman coughed up the ball after a hit by Skai Moore, then Watson mishandled an exchange with Gallman that Dante Sawyer pounced on.
The Tigers' defense, though, didn't let the Gamecocks capitalize on the mistakes.
Clemson finally found its footing with an 83-yard drive in the second quarter that Watson ended with a leaping 5-yard TD run, even flashing a bit of the "Dab" in celebration.
On the Tigers next possession, Watson lofted a picture perfect arc to freshman Deon Cain for a 55-yard touchdown pass. Watson stood with his arm in the air hold up No. 1 as Cain brought in the pass and finished the long scoring play.
South Carolina's only first half points came on Elliott Fry's 21-yard field goal in the final seconds to cut the lead to 14-3.
Clemson extended things to 21-3 on Watson's second TD run before the Gamecocks found some life.
This was the Tigers first win at Williams-Brice Stadium since 2007 and just the third victory in eight tries for Clemson coach Dabo Swinney against the Gamecocks.