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South Carolina too much for Clemson

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South Carolina QB Connor Shaw rushes for a touchdown against Clemson.
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)

South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw played like a beast against Clemson. And he's got the T-shirt to prove it.

The ''Beast Mode'' shirt Shaw wore after the game was a reward for leading the 14th-ranked Gamecocks to a 34-13 win against No. 18 Clemson on Saturday night.

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Strength coach Craig Fitzgerald gave Shaw the shirt off his back.

''I loved this shirt and I came up to coach Fitz and said, `If we win this game, I'm getting that shirt,''' Shaw said.

The sophomore who got the starting job in midseason passed for three touchdowns and ran for another in the landmark win. The Gamecocks (10-2) reached 10 victories for just the second time in 118 years of football. It was also their third straight win over the Tigers (9-3), something that last occurred from 1968-70.

Shaw finished 14 of 20 passing for 210 yards, including the longest touchdown pass of his career, a 49-yard strike to Bruce Ellington. Shaw also led the Gamecocks with 107 yards rushing.

''I feel like my confidence is boosting game by game the more I play,'' Shaw said. ''I have a better feel for the game and am starting to see the bigger picture.''

That could be awful for Clemson, which figures to deal with Shaw for two more seasons in a rivalry that has slipped out of its hands the past few years.

The Tigers came in with a 65-39-4 edge in the state's most talked-about matchup.

''Historically, Clemson has owned this series,'' Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. ''They don't own us now.''

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.

''Ten, 20 years down the road, we're still going to be talking about this,'' said Gamecocks defensive end Melvin Ingram, who had two of his team's five sacks.

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.

The Tigers weren't close to good enough to keep up with South Carolina's defense. When Boyd wasn't on the turf, he scrambling away to avoid even more sacks.. 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.

''We're just not playing winning football. It's as simple as that,'' Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

Swinney will play in his second conference title game in the past three years, but fell to 1-3 against the Gamecocks and Spurrier.

When summer camp started, Shaw figured to be capable insurance policy if fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia got hurt. However, Shaw was thrown into the lineup as Garcia struggled and was eventually dismissed from the program last month. Gradually, the Gamecocks offense adjusted to Shaw and his added running dimension he brought.

Shaw easily took advantage of Clemson's inability to handle his speed and elusiveness. ''"I knew coming into this game Clemson had a trouble with mobile quarterbacks,'' he said.

Swinney seemed most bothered by Shaw's success. ''That's the most disappointing thing to me coming out of this game - we let the quarterback beat us,'' he said.

Clemson will have two more tries to get to 10 wins for the first time since 1990.

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.

Spurrier dominated the SEC in the 1990s with his ''Fun-n-Gun'' offense at Florida. These days, he's become comfortable if not downright giddy about his team's grind-it-out mentality.

''There's nothing wrong with the way we're playing, if you can run the ball decently, you got a chance to score some points and you got a defense like we got,'' Spurrier said.

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The Gamecocks will await the chance for a 11th win, something they've never done, when the bowl bids are finalized on Dec. 4. Representatives from the Sugar, Citrus, Outback, Gator and Chick-fil-A bowls were on hand.

''I think we might wind up back in Atlanta,'' Spurrier said of the home of the Chick-fil-A Bowl. ''That's just a guess.''

The Gamecocks fell to Florida State, 26-19, in Atlanta last season.

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.

Tagged: Tajh Boyd, Connor Shaw, Florida, Clemson, South Carolina

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