The freshmen and sophomores on Clemson’s team have only experienced success against South Carolina, but the Tigers’ upperclassmen remember what it was like after the Gamecocks won five in a row in the series.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney still uses those losses as motivation as the Tigers prepare to try to beat USC for a third consecutive time.
“He reminds you of when we did lose five in a row and how terrible that was,” Clemson senior Jay Guillermo said. “I remember a couple of years ago in 2014, he would pull up pictures of people taking pictures of him holding up the “5” and how that was a miserable time. No matter what success we had, we were always hearing about South Carolina. He reminds us every day what we’re playing for.”
Fellow senior Jordan Leggett added Clemson is hoping to earn a victory this season and go on to have a long streak of its own.
“I was here during that little streak that they had, so everybody knew the importance of it and was always talking about it,” he said. “(Dabo) wants to keep this streak going that we have right now, because when they did it, they had five in a row. I think he wants to build this streak up and it go on for as long as it can and not let them win.”
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott played for the Tigers in the rivalry game against South Carolina, but he didn’t fully understand the importance of the game until after his playing days were over.
“I learned the most about the rivalry when I stepped away from the game, when I was done playing going to work at Michelin and seeing how much it meant to the people of this state and how hard they pulled for their schools,” he said. “It gave me a greater appreciation. As a player growing up in this state, you understand it, but I don’t think you really understand it until you’re done playing.”
DABO’S BIG MOMENT
Swinney was the interim coach for the Tigers in 2008 when he led Clemson to a 31-14 home victory over the Gamecocks. He believes that win propelled him to being named Clemson’s head coach.
“If we don’t win that game, I’m probably not here,” he said. “(AD) Terry Don Phillips had some guts, but I’m not sure he had that kind of guts. I’m very thankful for that group of seniors. That’s what was very special about that team.”
The Tigers entered the game 6-5, while South Carolina was 7-4. James Davis rushed for three touchdowns in Clemson’s victory.
NOTHING TO LOSE?
Leggett wouldn’t be surprised if South Carolina pulls out all the stops as it tries to pull off the upset this weekend.
“They have nothing to lose,” he said. “I could see them going for it on fourth down and going for two points every time they score. We’re just going to have to stick to our game plan and play ball and go out there and try to get it down. “