Clemson has passed a few challenging road tests already this year, including at Virginia Tech, at N.C. State and at Louisville, but the toughest environment of the season will come Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium when the Tigers travel to Columbia to face South Carolina.
USC’s stadium holds about 85,000 fans, which is about 20,000 more than any road venue Clemson has played at this year. And it will be at capacity for No. 24 South Carolina vs. No. 3 Clemson.
“I think it’s probably going to be the loudest of all the places,” Tigers co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said this week. “They can get rowdy, they can get loud. I think our guys have got to be mentally tough because the fans are on top of you. They don’t make it easy when you come out of that tunnel. Hopefully our guys will come in with the right mindset and keep the blinders on and just focus on getting onto the field and then let our play speak for ourselves.”
Clemson also must be mentally tough when it comes to not committing unnecessary penalties.
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The Tigers struggled with that in their only loss of the season, at Syracuse, as they received multiple 15-yard penalties for late hits and unsportsmanlike conduct.
Clemson players and coaches have said this rivalry is always chippy, and it could be even more so than normal due to the war of words following last year’s matchup.
“I take it personal just because it’s a very chippy game, just off my experience last year. Just seeing some of the things that their coaching staff had to say about us last year and stuff like that, you hear a lot of the talk that goes on from sideline to sideline,” defensive end Clelin Ferrell said. “But you do enjoy kind of the whole vibe you get from the game because it gets you amped up to play more.”
Tigers defensive tackle Christian Wilkins added that Clemson must harness that extra emotion and use it in a positive way.
“I feel like us personally, the d-line, we thrive in that area when teams are trying to get chippy with us,” Wilkins said. “That just makes us play our best, play better. And we have fun with that too. We don’t ever take anything personally when things are getting chippy or guys are talking trash… We embrace that. We have fun with it. And we’re not going to back down from anyone from that standpoint.”