Why this year's Carolina-Clemson clash feels different
It’s “Never Again” week at South Carolina.
The Gamecocks’ 31-10 win over Wofford on Saturday night in Williams-Brice Stadium wasn’t 30 minutes old before the media wanted to start talking about No. 2 Clemson, which comes to Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. showdown with the Gamecocks (8-3).
Clemson (10-1) embarrassed South Carolina in the team’s last meeting, a 56-7 thumping in Death Valley that prompted the Gamecocks to promise “Never Again,” a mantra that has been posted along with the score in various places in their football facility since.
“Just from a standpoint of competing,” head coach Will Muschamp explained Saturday night. “When the chips got down, we had some guys that didn’t compete. It wasn’t the whole team. We had a bunch of guys who competed their butts off, but we got outcoached and outplayed and it starts with me. That was the message from me to our football team, we got outcompeted in the game and that can’t happen.”
Muschamp, who was visibly seething following last year’s game, was much more measured in his comments Saturday night. At the time, he was in a hurry to get to his son Jackson’s state championship high school game. When Muschamp met again with the media Sunday evening via telephone, he was similarly circumspect.
“If you don’t get excited about playing your archrival then something is wrong with you is the way I look at it,” he said when asked if he planned to use last year’s final score as motivation this year. “Regardless of the score of last year or two years ago or three years ago, it doesn’t really matter.”
Muschamp pointed out that 70 percent of his roster consists of freshmen and sophomores, who have either no or very little experience with his game.
“We didn’t fare very well last year,” he said. “We got outcoached and outplayed. At every school that I’ve been at, there’s been that team and certainly for us that’s Clemson.”
South Carolina should be relatively healthy for the game. Defensive back Jamyest Williams (shoulder) “definitely” will play. Wide receiver Shi Smith (ankle) “should be good to go.” Linebacker Antoine Wilder (elbow) is questionable.
The Gamecocks last beat Clemson in 2013, a game that capped South Carolina’s record five-game winning streak in the series. The Tigers, who lead the overall series 68-42-4, now own a three-game winning streak.
“We just have to come out here with an edge about ourselves,” said South Carolina linebacker Skai Moore, the only Gamecock to play in a victory against Clemson. “That’s how we played my freshman year, that 2013 team, we had an edge about us, so that’s the motto we are going to be preaching throughout the week, have an edge about us and leave it all on the field.”
South Carolina senior defensive back Chris Lammons summed up the rivalry this way Saturday night: “We hate ’em, that’s it.”
EXTRA POINTS: Quarterback Jake Bentley was the offensive player of the game for Saturday’s 31-10 win over Wofford. Guard Donell Stanley was the offensive lineman of the game. Linebacker Skai Moore was the defensive player of the game. Ends D.J. Wonnum and Kier Thomas were the defensive linemen of the game. A.J. Turner was the special teams player of the game.