Clemson had snapped his 40-game national winning streak on Saturday, losing to rival South Carolina 31-30 in an error-packed performance that effectively eliminates the Tigers from College Football Playoff contention for a second straight season.
The winning streak at home was an ACC record and the longest since Nebraska won 47 in a row from 1991 to 1997. Equally stunning is the way Clemson blew a 23-14 halftime lead.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Clemson (10-2) had been 60-0 at home under Dabo Swinney when leading by nine or more points at halftime.
South Carolina, meanwhile, has beaten back-to-back ranked opponents, beating Tennessee and now Clemson last week, its first victory in the rivalry game since 2013.
The No. 8 Tigers entered the game with an outside chance to make the playoffs, but the truth is this team has hardly looked like a playoff contender all season. Once again, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei struggled, going 8-of-29 for 99 yards and one touchdown with one interception as South Carolina harassed him all game. All Clemson went on the offensive for was running back Will Shipley, who ran for 132 yards and got a score.
But with the game running late, South Carolina managed to pin Clemson deep several times and Uiagalelei failed to get much going offensively.
Clemson had another chance to get the ball back late, but Antonio Williams whistled a punt with 2 minutes and 5 seconds left. South Carolina recovered and held on for the win. Clemson totaled 86 yards in the second half.
The Tigers totaled three turnovers and enabled South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler to make multiple big plays in the passing game all along. Rattler threw for 360 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
Unlike other games this season when Uiagalelei struggled, Swinney opted to stay with him and did not turn to backup Cade Klubnik.
Swinney must now find a way to get his team focused on what’s to come: Saturday’s ACC championship game against North Carolina. This is the first time since 2012 that both teams go into the championship game with a loss, giving this game some shine.
Clemson didn’t win the ACC last year, so the Tigers have a chance to grab a title. While he has defended Uiagalelei at every turn, there will be legitimate questions he needs to answer about his quarterback situation going forward.