In high school, Trevor Lawrence did not really have any big rivals, especially anything to the level of the Clemson-South Carolina game.
Following Saturday’s win over Wake Forest, the Tigers turned a little bit of their attention onto their rivals from the south, where they will visit on Nov. 30 in Columbia.
Last year’s 56-35 win in Clemson, was Lawrence’s first true experience of the game. Being from Georgia, he knew Clemson and South Carolina were rivals, but he did not realize the level of attention the game gets and the intensity of the fan bases until he played in last year’s game.
“I guess the competitiveness of the game is just different, with the rivalry,” he said. “It was my first year in college and I did not experience anything like it (in high school). They really don’t like us, especially the fans.”
They don’t. And in all fairness the Clemson fans don’t like South Carolina players either. That is what makes the rivalry so intense.
The Clemson-Carolina game dates all the way back to 1896, the Tigers’ first year of playing football. They have played every year since 1909 and it is the second-longest uninterrupted series in all of college football.
The hatred between the two schools, alumni and fan bases goes back before football. It all started when former South Carolina Governor Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman wanted to open a land grant college in the Upstate as he thought the University of South Carolina was inadequate with the way it was handling the state’s agriculture department.
When Clemson opened its doors in 1893, it nearly bankrupted the University of South Carolina and discredited the school of its university status. From then on, Clemson has never liked South Carolina and South Carolina has never liked Clemson.
That hate has since carried over to the football field and every year they duke it out to see who has bragging rights in the state. The two teams have met 116 times on the gridiron, the second oldest rivalry in the deep South and one of the oldest in the country.
Clemson currently owns a five-game winning streak in the series and has a 70-42-4 lead in the all-time series.
“It is a fun game. There is a lot of juice behind it,” Lawrence said. “It is always fun to play in a game with some emotions. It is a lot of fun and it is cool to look forward to a game like that at the end of your schedule.
“We have had a great year up to this point, but we have another game, an SEC (opponent). We can really put an explanation point on this season.”
The Tigers, ranked No. 3, are having another great year. They are 11-0 and just won their 26th game in a row. They have won two of the last three national championships and they’re hoping they’ll have an opportunity to defend their national championship in the College Football Playoff.
The Gamecocks would love nothing more than to end those championship dreams for Clemson. Though they are 4-7 following Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M, they do have a win over a top 4 team this season. They knocked off No. 4 Georgia last month in Athens.
“I don’t think they really like us,” Clemson right guard Gage Cervenka said. “I think the biggest thing is their student section’s throwing trash on us. That’s my most recent memory. I just love it, though. I really do. I just love going to that place because I just know they hate us, and the feeling is mutual. It really is. I’ll straight up say it.”
Unlike Lawrence, Cervenka is a native of South Carolina and grew up in Greenwood. Growing up as a Tiger fan, he has never liked the Gamecocks.
“I look forward to it every year, playing South Carolina,” he said. “I grew up an in-state guy, so I have to deal with this rivalry all year, every year when I was growing up. And I went through the hard times, those ‘fear the thumb’ and all that.
“We’re going for our sixth one, so I’m really excited about this game, though. Looking forward to it.”
No team in the series has won six games in a row since Clemson won seven straight games from 1934-’40. It is the longest winning streak in the history of the rivalry.
As for the greeting the Tigers will get from the Gamecocks’ fans on Dec. 30, Lawrence isn’t expecting a good one.
“Not very welcoming is what I have heard,” he said. “I’m sure it is a great environment. I have heard that it is great and that it fun to play there. We are looking forward to it and we will be ready.”
Everyone in the Palmetto State will be ready.
Put some Clemson on your Christmas Tree this year. Clemson Christmas Decorations from Clemson Variety & Frame