In any series that is as old as the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry is, there are many heroic moments on both sides. However, Clemson has had a few more than the Gamecocks over the years, which explains why the Tigers have a 68-42-4 advantage in the all-time series.
Even in the early days of the rivalry, it seemed as if the Tigers always had someone step up and make a big play when they needed them to the most.
In 1928, injured All-American O.K. Pressley came off the bench in the second half to record four straight tackles behind the line of scrimmage to stop the Gamecocks deep in Clemson territory. It is the only time in history a Clemson player has made four straight tackles for loss. By the way, the Tigers won the game, 32-0.
With 4:15 to play in the 1948 game, Phil Prince blocked a punt and Oscar Thompson returned the ball for a touchdown for a 13-7 win in Columbia, allowing Clemson to keep its undefeated season going. The Tigers finished the 1948 season 11-0.
Quarterback Harvey White connected with future Super Bowl Champion Bill Mathis for a 26-yard touchdown pass in the third period to put Clemson up 19-0 in the final Big Thursday game in Columbia in 1959. White completed 9-of-10 passes on the day and led the Tigers to a 27-0 victory. White’s passing efficiency of 282.1 is still the second best mark in Clemson history. The Tigers went on to win their second straight ACC Championship that year and their third in four seasons.
In 1962, Don Chuy and Billy Weaver combined to sack Gamecock quarterback Dan Reeves for a 13-yard loss on fourth down with just 33 seconds left, preserving Clemson’s 20-17 victory. South Carolina had driven to the Clemson 25 before that last play.
Harry Olszewski, an All-America offensive guard, picked off a fumbled snap in mid-air in the 1966 game and ran 12-yards for a touchdown in a 35- 10 victory, which allowed Clemson to win another ACC title. No Clemson offensive lineman has scored a touchdown in a game in Death Valley since.
Buddy Gore’s 43-yard run in the third quarter led to a Clemson touchdown and was a momentum swaying play in Clemson’s 23-12 victory over the Gamecocks in 1967, a win that allowed Clemson to clinch a tie for the ACC championship, its third straight conference crown. Gore later became the first Clemson and running back in ACC history to go over 1,000 yards in a season, while break Brian Piccolo’s ACC single-season rushing record at the time.
With Clemson leading 7-6 in the fourth period in the 1972 game, Jimmy Williamson batted down a Dobby Grossman two-point conversion pass to preserve the victory for the Tigers.
Of course every Clemson fan knows what happened in 1977. Wide receiver Jerry Butler made a 20-yard touchdown catch of a Steve Fuller pass with 49 seconds left to give Clemson a 31-27 win in Columbia. The play is simply known at Clemson as “The Catch.” It also clinched a Gator Bowl bid for the Tigers, Clemson’s first bowl bid in 18 years.
Willie Underwood had a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown that clinched Clemson’s upset of No. 14 South Carolina and Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers in 1980. Underwood, who had two interceptions and led the Tigers in tackles that day, was named Sports Illustrated Player of the Week for his performance.
Just as it had happed 33 years previously, a blocked punt played a big part in a Clemson’s 29-13 victory over South Carolina that allowed the Tigers to have an undefeated 1981 season on their way to their first national championship. Trailing 7-0 at the time, Rod McSwain blocked a South Carolina punt and Johnny Rembert recovered in the end zone for the touchdown. Just as it had been 33 years previous when Prince did it for the 1948 team, the line of scrimmage was at the South Carolina 28.
In 1988, quarter Rodney Williams, a native of Columbia, led Clemson to a 29-10 victory in his final game at Death Valley. Williams threw for 192 and rushed for 38 and scored a touchdown.
Emory Smith carried South Carolina tacklers 20 yards on the way to a 54-yard run that led to the game clinching touchdown in Columbia in 1995. Smith ended the game with 101 yards rushing as the Tigers beat up the Gamecocks in the second half of a 38-17 win.
Like what Jerry Butler did in 1977 against the Gamecocks, Rod Gardner’s 50-yard reception from Woody Dantzler with 10 seconds left led to Aaron Hunt’s game winning 25-yard field goal with three seconds left for a 16-14 victory in 2000. Gardner’s catch is known as “Catch II.”
From 2002-’05, Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst completed 77-of-118 passes for 912 yards. He completed 65.4 percent of his passes and more importantly, he was 4-0 against the Tigers’ archrival. Whitehurst is the only quarterback in the history of the rivalry to go 4-0.
In 2007, Mark Buchholz kicked a 35-yard field goal on the last play of the game, to give Clemson a 23-21 victory in Columbia.
Clemson ended a five-year drought in the series with a 35-17 victory at Clemson in 2014. But the story was Deshaun Watson, who played with a torn ACL, but still accounted for four touchdowns.
A lot like Whitehurst, Watson always seemed to be at his best against the Gamecocks. In his last game in Death Valley, he tied his own school record for touchdown passes in a game with six, while setting a new mark for the rivalry. Watson led the Tigers to an average of 43 points per game against South Carolina, while completing 61-of-79 passes (.772) for 895 yards and nine touchdowns with just one interception. In terms of rushing the ball, Watson had 31 carries for 146 yards and five scores. In terms of total offense, Watson had 110 plays for 941 yards and 14 touchdowns in the three games.