Matt Bockhorst and the third-ranked Clemson Tigers have a bye week ahead of their last regular season game of the year, a matchup where they will once again face off with in-state rival South Carolina.
With an extra week to prepare for the big game, the bye week welcomes some needed rest and prep time for the Tigers as they look to win their fourth straight game against the Gamecocks.
“It’s definitely unique having two bye weeks. I don’t think it’s something any of us have experienced before,” said Bockhorst. “It’s kind of nice to have. Heading into our last bye week we squeaked one out against North Carolina, so it was definitely much needed. I think this is very valuable for the team as well, getting two weeks to prepare for South Carolina and just get the team healthy.”
Being born and raised in Ohio, the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry, which is so important for both programs, was new to Bockhorst when coming to Clemson in 2017. Even growing up around some great rivalries, the importance of this one became clear to him early in his Clemson tenure.
“Oh yeah that was one of the biggest things coming down here, I didn’t really understand the rivalry,” he said. “I just had never been around it and I had grown up around the Michigan vs Ohio State rivalry and I was never really a fan of either of those schools.
“But coming down here and really being immersed in it, it is a big deal and it really matters. Especially for the guys who grew up in South Carolina, there’s definitely a sense of urgency this upcoming week.”
There are many different aspects of rivalry week in the state of South Carolina that have really opened his eyes on the importance of this game. Arguably Bockhorst’s biggest influence on the importance of the game comes from fellow starting offensive linemen Gage Cervenka. Growing up a diehard Clemson fan, Cervenka has been around the program his entire life.
“Coach (Dabo) Swinney always reminds us that Gage growing up was a lifelong Clemson fan,” said the guard. “Like I said, for those guys in-state, it does mean a little bit more. I remember talking to Taylor Hearn and it was a big deal for him too.
“With Gage being a fifth-year guy and leader on this team, you really want to go out there and perform well so he can have that pride of never losing to South Carolina.
“Obviously we take pride in that too, but it just means a lot to him and his family growing up and really seeing the program in stages when it wasn’t a national title contender. Being able to stick with it and see where this team has gone is really special for guys like Gage.”
Not only will Clemson look to win their sixth straight against the Gamecocks, but they will also face former starting running back Tavien Feaster for the first and only time since he transferred from Clemson to rival South Carolina last summer.
Feaster did a fine job in his tenure with Clemson, rushing for 1,330 yards on 222 attempts, but failed to maintain his starting position with the breakout of Travis Etienne.
“It’ll be weird seeing Tavien wear those colors. Tavien made a decision he needed to make for himself and it was certainly unorthodox, it hasn’t happened very often before. I mean Josh Belk sort of switched. Tavien’s a friend of mine, it’s all respect. I’ll be excited to see him after the game and since we’re both on offense, I won’t get to play against him in the game. I hope he’s doing well down there.”
The Tigers will have two full weeks to prepare for South Carolina before they head down to Columbia. Kickoff is set for noon on Nov. 30.
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