By Kaila Burns-Heffner.
Saturday’s victory over Georgia State marked the 40th win for the senior class at Clemson, an accomplishment that has them tied with the 1990 class for the most wins in Clemson history, but this year’s seniors have one thing left to do — beat South Carolina.
The countdown clock has been ticking in the WestZone all year and will not stop until noon on Saturday when Clemson’s biggest rival enters Death Valley for the 112th matchup between the two schools. For senior safety Robert Smith, that clock serves as a reminder.
“You have to look on that wall and see that it says 0-5, and that is something that you’re not proud of at all,” Smith said. “Its something that you have to deal with 365 days. You live with it.”
Smith is having a great season contributing to the success of the current best defensive unit in the nation. He has racked up 69 tackles and two interceptions and knows that he will need to do all that and more when the Gamecocks (6-5) invade the Valley on Saturday.
“That’s what we’ve been shooting for since the beginning of the year, to come out here and prove that we can be the number one defense in the nation,” Smith said. “This is a game that is going to be in the way of it and we have to go out there with great focus.”
Smith and all of the other seniors know how much is at stake when they rub the rock and run down the hill for their last time in Death Valley. This is their last chance to leave the legacy that they ended South Carolina’s five-year winning streak against Clemson and they are focused on doing so.
“That would just top it off at this point in my senior year just seeing the finale and to end the streak here in Death Valley. That is just one thing that I would always remember for all my life,” he said.
For Smith the rivalry with the Gamecocks has always been a part of his life . He grew up living in a small town in South Carolina and watching his cousin play for Clemson, so he knows how important this game is to the team as well as all of the fans. He hopes that he is able to help the team end the streak to give back to the fans that have supported him along the way.
“You kind of want to do it for the fan,” he said. “It’s been a long time since we won the state championship. In the back of my mind I want the Clemson fans to be proud of something. I don’t want them not to have to live with another year of dealing with no bragging rights.
“Its not just about us, its so much more.”