It’s been a while since Dabo Swinney’s program has been on the wrong side of a Palmetto Bowl outcome, but Clemson’s coach hasn’t forgotten what the disappointment of losing to South Carolina feels like.
Nine years later, Clemson’s latest loss in the series is still hard for Swinney to stomach.
The 2013 matchup was one between a pair of top-10 teams. Swinney’s team entered that game already with 10 wins on the season while then-Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was looking to get the Gamecocks to double-digit wins for the third straight season.
Clemson was also trying to snap a four-game losing streak in the series that late November afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium, but the Tigers committed six turnovers. Four of those came in the fourth quarter as Clemson tried to rally from what was a one-score deficit at the time.
“We still had a chance late in the game,” Swinney recalled, “but it was a tough day for us,”
Clemson’s Tajh Boyd-led offense outgained Carolina in total yardage and won the time-of-possession battle, but the giveaways were too much to overcome in a 31-17 loss that continued the longest losing streak the Tigers have had in a Palmetto Bowl series that began in 1896.
“Five (losses) in a row. Six turnovers. That was pretty low,” Swinney said. “I thought we had the better team. And I think Coach Spurrier thought we had the better team. He called me the next day to almost apologize, like, ‘I don’t know why y’all turned that ball over. I don’t understand it.’ And I‘m like, ‘I don’t either, Coach.’”
Clemson has flipped the script since then. The Tigers have won the last seven matchups with Carolina. The teams didn’t play in 2020 when the SEC implemented a conference-only schedule for its team in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Clemson pitched a shutout against the Gamecocks when the series resumed last season in Columbia.
On Saturday, the series will shift back to Memorial Stadium, where Swinney hopes the ghost of that 2013 performance doesn’t haunt this year’s team. Carolina enters this weekend’s game with seven wins, the second-most the Gamecocks have had entering the Clemson matchup since their most recent Palmetto Bowl victory.
“It don’t matter if you’ve lost five in a row or you lose one in a row. If you lose this game, it stinks. Period,” Swinney said. “It doesn’t matter. You can win 20 in a row. When you lose this game, it stinks. There’s nothing good about it.
“Same thing when you win. It’s great. And it’s been that way forever and ever in a rivalry game and always will be. But, specifically, that was a disappointing day because, again, I really thought we had the better team.”
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