Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney summed up what the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry means in a nutshell … just lose it one time and see what happens.
From the moment he came to Clemson as a young wide receivers coach in 2003, Swinney found out how important beating the Gamecocks each year is to the Clemson faithful.
“We did not have to do much when we got here,” the Tigers’ head coach said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “You go to the grocery store. You go to church. Everywhere you go, it is instant. It is that way on both sides. They know it is one of our goals to beat South Carolina.
“It is a big deal, and that is on both sides. It is a big deal. You live with it every single day.”
The rivalry seemed like it was going to be pretty easy for Swinney when he was part of the Tommy Bowden staff that whipped the Gamecocks 63-17 down in Columbia.
“I was like, ‘Man, this is it! This is easy,” Swinney said jokingly. “We opened with touchdown passes to Derrick Hamilton, Airese Currie and Ben Hall and just like that it was over.”
Clemson won the next year 29-7 and then in 2005, Charlie Whitehurst converted a first-and-35 into a first down on the game-winning drive. Swinney also has fond memories of the Tigers’ 2007 win, when Mark Buchholz made a 35-yard field goal as time expired.
Of course there is the 2008 game too, the win that got Swinney hired permanently as Clemson’s head coach.
But there have been some bad memories too in the series for Swinney, memories he rather forget about but he can’t … like losing five straight to the Gamecocks from 2009-‘13.
These days, though Swinney and his Tigers are in the midst of a three-game winning streak and would love nothing more than to make it four straight this coming Saturday night when the two meet at 7:30 on ESPN.
“Last year we won the national championship, but we lost to Pittsburgh, but had we won the national championship and lost to South Carolina, nobody was going up to us and saying congratulations on winning the national championship, but you lost one.
“You lose this one and see what happens? This is one of those games that live all year.”