South Carolina wins at "Death Valley" for first time in decadeNov 25, 2006 - 8:44 PM CLEMSON, South Carolina (Ticker) - Coach Steve Spurrier weathered numerous close losses in the Southeastern Conference this season. He finally enjoyed a close win, and it came at the expense of a state rival.
Jad Dean hooked a 39-yard field-goal attempt wide left with eight seconds left, enabling South Carolina to earn its first win at "Death Valley" in 10 years with a 31-28 victory over 24th-ranked Clemson.
The Gamecocks (7-5) had lost the last four meetings in the series and had not won at "Death Valley" since 1996. The win gave South Carolina an automatic bowl bid for the second straight season under Spurrier.
"This win was for our fans. They've lived through a lot," Spurrier said. "Hopefully, whatever bad things happened to South Carolina football may be erased today. Sometimes a game like this can do that. We'll see. Only time will tell."
South Carolina lost four SEC games by seven points or fewer. The most painful one came on November 11, when Ryan Succop had an extra-point attempt and the potential game-winning field goal blocked in the fourth quarter of a 17-16 loss at Florida.
This time, Succop snapped a 28-28 tie with a 35-yard field goal with 7:51 remaining in the fourth quarter to cap a comeback from a 14-point deficit.
"It was about time we finally won one of the close ones," Succop said. "We finally finished one."
Mike Davis scored on runs of one and nine yards in the third quarter to tie the game before Succop's field goal.
Will Proctor was sacked for a 10-yard loss by defensive end Casper Brinkley before Dean attempted his potential game-tying field goal. But Clemson coach Tommy Bowden didn't believe the sack was a factor.
"The sack at the end didn't really hurt us," Bowden said. "We had a play at the field goal and just didn't succeed."
"I didn't hit it great, but I thought I hit it good enough," said Dean, who had an extra-point attempt blocked in a 34-33 overtime loss at Boston College on September 9.
The loss was the third in four games for Clemson (8-4), which also will get a bowl bid.
True freshman C.J. Spiller rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries for the Tigers before leaving in the fourth quarter with a sprained ankle.
Spiller scored on an 80-yard run in the first quarter and broke off a 31-yard touchdown with 9:48 left in the third quarter to help Clemson build a 28-14 lead. Of Spiller's 10 TDs this season, six have come from more than 50 yards.
But the Gamecocks rallied behind Blake Mitchell, who shook off three earlier interceptions, one of which was returned 82 yards for a touchdown by defensive tackle Josh McKissic, and directed three straight scoring drives.
Mitchell completed passes of nine yards to Freddie Brown, 18 to Sidney Rice and 18 to Davis before Davis scored on a one-yard run with 6:14 left in the third quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Gamecocks defensive end Jordin Lindsay recovered a fumble by tight end Thomas Hunter at the Clemson 34. Three plays later, Davis scored on a nine-yard run to tie the game with 4:19 remaining in the quarter.
South Carolina appeared to take its first lead less than a minute later when defensive tackle Nathan Pepper picked off a pass by Proctor at the Clemson 41 and looked to have clear sailing to the end zone. But Pepper slowed down inside the 5 and Tigers running back James Davis swatted the ball away. It bounced through the end zone for a touchback.
Boyd broke off a 17-yard run and Rice caught a 15-yard pass to set up Succop's go-ahead field goal.
South Carolina outgained the Tigers, 492-372, but committed four turnovers. Clemson had not allowed more than 332 yards in a game this season, but could not contain Spurrier's offense.
Mitchell threw for 268 yards, Cory Boyd rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and Rice caught eight passes for 103 yards for the Gamecocks, who punted just once in the game.
"Coach Spurrier is a good play-caller," Bowden said. "South Carolina didn't punt much. Their quarterback has been in the system for three years. They just had one play better than us."
Proctor completed 13-of-19 passes for 191 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown to freshman Jacoby Ford in the first quarter.
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