Most of the Clemson fans at Death Valley were already aware South Carolina had been upset by The Citadel by the time the announcement was made in the first quarter of Clemson’s win over Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers players, however, couldn’t believe the news when they heard it.
“That’s crazy, shocked. I mean even though their record’s not all that, I definitely didn’t expect them to lose to The Citadel,” safety Jayron Kearse said. “When they announced it I was like, ‘Whoa, they actually lost to The Citadel.’”
Freshman wide receiver Deon Cain, who is third on the team in receiving yards, said he was taken aback by the news, but insisted the Tigers won’t be overconfident entering Saturday’s rivalry matchup.
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“At first I was like, ‘Wow.’ Really just like, ‘Wow,’ to actually see that they lost to probably a D I-AA school,” he said. “We’re not going to look down on any opponent, because this is probably their last game that they’re going to play, so I know they’re going to give us their all. We’re going to go hard. We’re going to prepare for them and give them our all, too.”
Cain, a freshman from Tampa, Fla., has yet to experience the South Carolina-Clemson rivalry firsthand.
Senior defensive tackle D.J. Reader, another out of state player, didn’t know much about the rivalry before arriving in Clemson, but after the Tigers lost to USC for a fifth straight time his sophomore season, Reader found out how much the game means.
“The first few years, honestly, like I didn’t even know how important it was,” he said. “After losing with that 5-0 thing, and I started seeing people holding up five fingers, it started to make me mad. I realized how big it was. I really had to figure out how important the rivalry was.”
Reader, a Greensboro, N.C., native, said this rivalry reminds him of Duke-North Carolina basketball.
“It’s cool to see how this state does, because being from North Carolina it’s a basketball thing,” he said. “It’s Duke-Carolina. You pick a side, and if you’re an N.C. State fan nobody really cares about you. You pick a side, Duke or Carolina.”
Reader’s ultimate goal is to help Clemson win a national title, but he said a victory over South Carolina would be a great way to end the regular season.
“It definitely means a lot more to get even with those guys and come out tied in the series,” he said. “I think it would be cool next week if we go out and take care of business.”
Kearse, a junior, added that he hasn’t experienced what the seniors have as far as losing a couple in a row to South Carolina. Still, he said everyone on the team is intent on sending the seniors out the right way.
“Those guys were here when South Carolina was dominating, and it was South Carolina’s state and things like that. I never really experienced them to just be dominant as some of those guys did. I just see it as another game. They’re our rival, but I just see it as another football game,” he said. “It would be big to get a win and even up the series for those guys. It puts us one up on those guys, the juniors. Sophomores undefeated and freshmen undefeated if we go out there and take care of business.”
Tigers vs. Gamecocks
Who: Clemson at South Carolina
When: Noon, Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium