If there was anyone disrespecting anyone in Clemson’s 56-7 victory over rival South Carolina on Saturday night, it was the Gamecocks disrespecting their own fans and alumni.
Carolina was embarrassed by its rival on national television, proving how far it has fallen since their five-game win streak in the rivalry and three straight 11-2 seasons under former head coach Steve Spurrier.
What’s disrespectful is the way South Carolina players acted last week, calling Clemson’s offensive line soft and saying Clemson was their little brother. You did not hear Clemson’s players disrespecting Carolina’s players in the week leading up to the game, and they had a two-game win streak in the series and history on their side. Granted, they said some things in general about some USC fans, but not the South Carolina program or its players.
What’s disrespectful is the way some of South Carolina players acted after getting their rear ends handed to them in the 49-point loss, which by the way, is the second largest margin of victory in the history of the rivalry, and the largest in 116 years.
I don’t know what was said or what happened before the game. I was not there. I was not near that little pushing and shoving match before the game. But if something was said, the Gamecocks had 60 minutes on the football field to do something about it and instead they were pushed around and physically dominated on both sides of the lines of scrimmage.
Clemson was up 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. Carolina did not manage a single first down until the 12:28 mark of the second quarter and had just three first downs at halftime. The Tigers led 35-0 at the break and it would have been worse had Deon Cain not had a pass hit him in the facemask when he was running wide open down the near sideline early in the second quarter.
If Clemson was disrespecting South Carolina in anyway, Dabo Swinney could have easily left Deshaun Watson and company in the game and I guarantee you they could have scored another two or three more touchdowns. Instead, Swinney took out all the starters with 3:48 left in the third quarter and he played the second half of the fourth quarter with three string players and walk-ons.
That does not sound disrespectful to me.
As for the tribute he gave Watson, Mike Williams, Wayne Gallman, Jay Guillermo, Jordan Leggett and the others by calling back-to-back timeouts with 6:49 to play in the game, why is that disrespectful? If I was South Carolina player, and I did for their program what those young men did for Clemson’s, I would hope my head coach would honor me in some way like that if he got the chance.
Carolina players told reporters after the game that Will Muschamp told them he did not like what Swinney did there.
You want to know why Dabo Swinney has been able to pull big-time recruits like Deshaun Watson, Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and C.J. Spiller to Clemson. It’s because he does things like that. He always honors his players and thinks about them. He is a player’s coach and he always puts his players first.
What Swinney did the other night was give his star players a few seconds with all the Clemson fans in Death Valley so they could have that moment. That moment was between Clemson’s player and their fans. They were not trying to showboat or disrespect anybody. That moment had nothing to do with South Carolina.
As for the handshake saga … come on, get real. That’s a stretch there. First off, when Muschamp came over, Swinney was with his players and he never even saw Muschamp. I was watching the whole thing. Muschamp did not start walking over to talk to Swinney until Swinney was already locked in his players’ arms and walking towards the west zone during their ceremonial march, which they have done every game, at the same time, since Swinney took over the program in 2008.
You know how long Muschamp waited? Not even 10 seconds. And I’m sure it was no big deal to him. For the record, for those who don’t know, Swinney later walked all the way down to the USC 25-yard line and shook Muschamp’s hand. It might have been a brief handshake, but there did not seem to be any ill feelings on either side.
You know how I know. When Clemson left guard John Simpson injured his left leg in the fourth quarter and had to be carted off the field, guess who was standing beside Swinney as he tried to comfort his injured player … Will Muschamp. I don’t know what the conversation was, but it seemed friendly enough and when it was over, Muschamp gave Swinney a pat on the back and then walked back over to the Carolina sideline.
So no one on Clemson’s team disrespected anyone at South Carolina, and if you don’t believe that, then you were not at the same game I was covering from the press box and you surely did not watch all of it on television.
Like I said, the only thing disrespectful about Saturday was the performance Carolina gave its fans and alumni because their most bitter rival dominated them in just about every phase of the game.