It is rivalry week in South Carolina and for some diehards, possibly the most important week of the year. It is the week passionate college football fans from across the state come together to cheer on either No. 2 Clemson or South Carolina because in this state you get two choices- you are either a Tiger or a Gamecock.
This year is a little extra special though as Clemson has a chance to accomplish an achievement that has not been done in 78 years. If the Tigers win Saturday it will be the first time since 1934-’40 that Clemson has won at least five consecutive games against the Gamecocks.
The seven-year stretch is the longest winning streak between the two programs in the rivalry’s history.
Although head coach Dabo Swinney has turned the Tigers into one of the elite programs in all of college football, there once was a time when Clemson watched the other sideline celebrate a victory five times in a row.
From 2009 up until 2013, it was the Gamecocks who came out of the rivalry victorious, but thanks to a current NFL quarterback named Deshaun Watson, that streaked was snapped in 2014 when Watson led Clemson to a 35-17 victory all the while playing with a torn ACL.
The infamous losing streak was a time co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott never wants to experience again. However, he understands the mistakes that were made during that time period that allowed the Gamecocks to pull out five straight.
“There’s no doubt that there was a sense of urgency,” Scott said on Monday, “and I think the biggest thing as a coach was just trying to find ways to help your guys go out and play well in that game. I felt like during that stretch we had a lot of turnovers. I felt like sometimes we were a little too amped up and really didn’t play our game.
“We didn’t have our energy and emotions channeled in the right direction so I think during that time as coaches we wanted to get it turned around and it’s definitely a lot better to be on this side of it. But it wasn’t that long ago. We still have work to do in this rivalry and we want to continue to accomplish that goal every year.”
Although the ACC Atlantic Division champions are coming into this game as a 25-point favorite with a ticket already punched to the ACC Championship on Dec. 1, this still is and always will be one of the most important games of the season for the Tigers.
“(A fifth-straight win) would mean that we’re continuing to build on the momentum that we’ve had,” Scott said. “I think for us, Coach Swinney does a good job of just trying to put enough in front of our guys for them to go out and focus on that. I think the success that we’ve had hasn’t been just in this game.
“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.”
Winning the “State Championship” is always a main goal for the program, but this year, winning another state title would mean making history as well for Clemson.