CLEMSON, South Carolina (Ticker) -- Rod Gardner's 49-yard reception set up a game-winning field goal by Aaron Hunt with three seconds remaining as No. 14 Clemson escaped with a wild 16-14 victory over intrastate rival South Carolina.
South Carolina (7-4, 5-3 SEC) was poised for the victory after taking a 14-13 lead with 59 seconds remaining. Facing a 1st-and-goal at the Clemson 2, Derek Watson fumbled the ball as he was trying to reach over the goal line and Gamecocks tight end Thomas Hill recovered in the end zone.
Clemson (9-2, 6-2 ACC) was on the verge of its third straight loss when Gardner hauled in Woodrow Dantzler's long pass at the South Carolina 13 on 3rd-and-12. Hunt booted a 25-yard field goal on the ensuing play, his third of the game.
The Tigers, who accepted a bid to the Gator Bowl on Tuesday, posted their first nine-win season since the 1991 squad went 9-1-1.
The Gamecocks, who were No. 25 in the media poll, still have a chance for either the Peach or Music City bowls.
Dantzler was 13-of-27 passes for 180 yards despite being slowed by a sore ankle, an ailment he will have corrected through surgery following the season. He also gained 87 yards on 19 rushes.
Gardner caught four passes for 107 yards while teammate Travis Zachery gained 84 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown.
Watson rushed for 150 yards on 25 carries with a TD, making him the sixth different 1,000-yard rusher in South Carolina.
After South Carolina's Jason Corse missed a 40-yard field goal on the game's first possession, Clemson took over and went 77 yards on 17 plays, capped by Zachery's one-yard plunge with 4:25 remaining in the first quarter. Zachery ammassed 29 yards on seven carries during the drive.
On the Gamecocks ensuing possession, Watson darted up the middle and scored from 61 yards out to tie the game.
The Tigers regained the lead late in the second quarter thanks again to the heroics of Gardner and Hunt. On a 2nd-and-5 play, Garnder caught a 40-yard pass from Dantzler at the South Carolina 4, setting up Hunt's 22-yard boot with three seconds left before halftime.
Clemson's defense began to make its mark in the third quarter by intercepting Phil Petty three times, including two by Alex Ardley. Terry Jolly's pick late in the third led to Hunt's 31-yard field with just over 14 minutes remaining.
Petty, who had only six interceptions before today, completed 13-of-26 passes for 200 yards and was sacked twice.
South Carolina lost to Clemson for the fourth straight time.