USC-Clemson rivalry: Unforgettable moments

November 25, 2009 

Sports are not about the scoreboard. Think about it. Who remembers the score of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series?

But you remember Carlton Fisk.

Who remembers the score of the 1980 United States hockey team's victory over the Russians? Or that it wasn't even the gold-medal game?

But everyone believes in miracles.

Sports is about memories and heroes. As Clemson and South Carolina prepare for their 107th meeting, a look back on what the series is really about.

It's about 10 unforgettable moments.

1. 1961: Big Surprise

The men in orange trotted onto the field, the band struck up "Tiger Rag" and Clemson fans roared.

Within seconds, those cheers turned to anger. A group of 20-25 students from a USC fraternity had borrowed Orangeburg High jerseys, almost identical to Clemson's, and took the field minutes before the real Tigers did. One student with a pillow under his shirt and a plug of tobacco in his cheek to emulate coach Frank Howard.

"These guys lined up to do calisthenics," USC historian Tom Price said. "Everything they did was inept. They'd fall down, and they lined up in two rows and one row clasped their hands and turned them over with their thumbs upside down like cow's udders. The other rows started milking them."

"It took the (Clemson fans) a minute or two to realize they'd been had."

Legend has it that the fraternity brothers also borrowed a cow from a farmer in Lexington and were going to parade it around as the Clemson homecoming queen at halftime. Regrettably, the cow had a heart attack and died.

South Carolina won 21-14.

2. 1902: The Fight

Today's rivalry is nothing compared to the old days. When USC dealt the Tigers the only blemish to their record with a 12-6 victory, it was the first time since 1896 the Gamecocks could celebrate.

USC students paraded a transparency of a Gamecock crowing over a Tiger around the city. Clemson followers demanded it not be displayed in the Elk's parade the next day, but USC fans defied the city law enforcement's recommendation that the banner be banned.

Following the parade, Clemson cadets marched to the Sumter Street entrance of the school with fixed bayonets and swords drawn. A small group of USC students armed with pistols and clubs crouched down behind a brick wall prepared to repel the invaders.

But Christie Benet, a Columbia attorney and USC assistant coach, acted as a spokesman and reportedly offered to fight any person selected by Clemson to settle the dispute. Police and faculty arrived before blood was shed, and six students were selected to arbitrate the dispute, the transparency was burned and both sides cheered. It was six years before the schools met again.

3. 1977: The Catch

After trailing 24-0, South Carolina came back to take a 27-24 lead with two minutes to play. The Tigers lost yardage on their first two plays before Steve Fuller got the drive going. It culminated in "The Catch" by Jerry Butler for a 31-27 victory.

4. 1992: Taneyhill

In 1992, USC freshman quarterback Steve Taneyhill hit fake home runs after each big play, autographed the Tiger paw at midfield when it was over and punctuated the Gamecocks' 24-13 victory with a bow.

5. 1984: The Comeback

Clemson broke out to a 21-3 lead, only to see the Gamecocks come all the way back. Trailing by six with 3:07 to go, USC took over at its 14-yard line. On the drive, quarterback Mike Hold carried five times for 15 yards - the last into the end zone - and completed a 36-yard pass. Scott Hagler missed the game-winning PAT, but Clemson was flagged for having 12 men on the field. The Gamecocks kicked the winner with less than a minute to play.

6. 1980: Underwood the Underdog

Perhaps South Carolina's greatest team, led by Heisman Trophy-winner George Rogers, was upset by Clemson 27-6. Willie Underwood intercepted the first two passes of his career to lead the Tigers to victory. It would springboard Clemson to the 1981 national championship.

7. 1958: Howard's Sunburn

Warren Giese entered his third season as USC's coach without having scored a point against Clemson, losing 7-0 and 14-0. In response, Tigers coach Frank Howard quipped, "If ol' Geezie ever scores on me, I'll tip my hat to him."

Clemson, ranked No. 8, grabbed a 6-0 lead before the Gamecocks replied with 26 unanswered points. Howard acknowledged each score with a tip of his hat, afterward saying, "My old, bald head got sunburned."

8. 1948: Money Man

Clemson trailed 7-6 with two minutes to play and USC had the ball when, legend has it, a Tiger fan stood up, waved a $100 bill and bet Clemson would score on the next play. Bill Prince blocked a punt, and Rabbitt Thompson returned it for a touchdown and the 13-7 victory. The Tigers finished 11-0, including a Gator Bowl berth.

9. 1946: Counterfeits

No one could tell the difference between real tickets and the several thousand counterfeits that were sold - including ticket takers. Fans broke down the gates and sat six or seven deep. Several feet from the benches, concession workers were selling Cokes.

With Clemson leading at halftime, a Tiger fan ran onto the field with a live chicken and wrung its neck at midfield. Police had to break up a fight before the second half could start.

After trailing at halftime, USC rebounded to take a 26-14 victory.

10. 1972: Broken Up, Broken Hearted

After scoring late to come within 7-6, USC goes for the two-point conversion, but Clemson's Jimmy Williamson breaks up the pass to secure the victory.

- From Staff Reports

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service