For those who think Clemson does not emphasize the importance of beating rival South Carolina, they are wrong.
Coaches and players alike expressed their displeasure for their in-state rival on Monday as second-ranked Clemson gets set to host the Gamecocks Saturday (7 p.m.) at Death Valley.
“It’s a different feeling,” linebacker Shaq Smith said. “It’s not like this every week in college football, when you’re running into the locker room and people are spitting on you and throwing stuff on you. There might be some hatred in their blood down there, but the feelings are mutual. It’s a big game.”
It’s a game the Tigers (11-0) would like to win for a fifth straight year, something the Clemson program has not done in the rivalry in 78 years when it won seven-straight over the Gamecocks from 1934-’40.
“That would be awesome,” center Justin Falcinelli said. “It would just be incredible if we could add that to the list of all of the things we have done this season. It’s just been crazy.”
What’s been crazy is the way the Tigers have beaten South Carolina (6-4) during its four-game win streak. Clemson has won the four games by an average margin of 24 points, including a 56-7 victory at Death Valley two years ago.
Three of the Tigers’ four wins have been decided by 18 or more points, including a 34-10 victory last year in Columbia that was not even that close.
“The success that we have had, has not just been in this game,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “It’s been in a lot of our other goals that we’ve accomplished the last four years, but yeah there’s no doubt that we’ve been on the other side of that and we want to continue to add on wins each and every year.
“It’s also a reminder to ourselves of what we’ve done in the past is not going to have much bearing whenever they kick that ball off Saturday night. It’s going to be about which team plays best in those four quarters. There’s no doubt that we want to continue to add to that.”
Of course, the Tigers are still motivated by the way South Carolina fans five-bombed Dabo Swinney following the Gamecocks’ last win in the series back in 2013. That’s when USC won its fifth straight game and fans who took pictures with Swinney during the following year slipped in five-bombs and posted them on social media to poke fun at the Clemson coach.
Let’s just say, the disrespect got under the Tigers’ skin. In particular, it got under the skin of defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who admitted he is surprised by the way Gamecock fans allow their children to disrespect Swinney the way that they do.
“I just hear people being disrespectful to Coach Swinney in little league games and stuff,” he said. “If my child was ever disrespectful to anyone like that we would have some serious problems, but I think it’s allowed in this rivalry so that’s an example I guess.”
It is an example of just how much Clemson and South Carolina and the two fan bases dislike each other.
“Parents and kids. They have no filters,” Venables said. “They say whatever they want to say. Most of it is just like ‘Roll Tide.’”