A couple of hours before Clemson’s 24-point win over South Carolina in Columbia last year, Christian Wilkins and one of his teammates were tossing the football in the end zone, like they always do prior to a game.
In one instance the ball sailed and went over Wilkins’ head and into the hedges, which are located in the back of the Carolina end zone. A South Carolina student picked up the football and held it out to Wilkins as if to gesture, “here you go.” As Clemson’s All-American defensive tackle went over to get the ball and thank him, the Gamecock fan threw the ball as hard as he could to about the 40-yard line and then proceeded to stare Wilkins down.
“I was like, ‘Oh! That’s what kind of night it is going to be,’” Clemson defensive end Austin Bryant recalled. “That’s one moment that I always think about because it is really just funny that it happened to Christian.”
However, it was no laughing matter on the field for Wilkins and the Tigers as the defense, led by the defensive front, crushed South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley and the Gamecocks’ offense, limiting them to 218 total yards.
Clemson, who hosts the Gamecocks on Saturday at Death Valley in the 116th edition of the rivalry, even got a score from the defense, a pick-six by Ryan Carter, while sacking Bentley three times. South Carolina ran the ball for just 81 yards as Clemson rolled to a 34-10 victory at Williams-Bice Stadium.
However, despite Clemson dominating their team, Gamecock fans kept taunting the Tigers all night with rude gestures and comments, plus throwing water and Coke bottles at Clemson players when they scored touchdowns.
“I can go back to them giving us the finger when we scored going towards their student section, throwing trash on the field, I have never seen that before,” Bryant said. “So, yeah, it was pretty interesting.”
When Hunter Renfrow caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Kelly Bryant that gave Clemson a 20-0 lead in the second quarter, there is a picture of a Coke bottle hitting the Clemson wide receiver in the back.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney went nuts on the sideline of course as he pleaded with the officials to get things under control or penalize the Gamecocks before someone got hurt. Instead, Swinney was penalized when he came out of the coaches’ box for taking up for his players and their wellbeing.
It got so bad, even South Carolina players grabbed the bottles and threw them back in the crowd while pleading to their fellow students to stop throwing things onto the field.
“It was disappointing,” Swinney said after the game last year. “It is not representative of South Carolina. I got a lot of people that I know that are South Carolina fans that are great people and friends. That’s just disappointing to see that. It was dangerous… You got things being thrown out, at some point the refs have to do something about that.
“I lost my poise and they threw a flag on me because I came out of the box. I agree, I came out of the box. He did not throw a flag on me for what I said, he threw a flag on me for being out of the box. But you know, it was about the fifth time. It’s just dangerous.”
Linebacker Shaq Smith said it was more than just cussing and throwing things at them when they were by the South Carolina student section, which is beside the entrance to where the visiting team’s locker room is located.
“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,” Smith said. “There might be some hatred in their blood down there, but the feelings are mutual.”