On Saturday, South Carolina’s football team returns to the site of the worst moment of the Will Muschamp era with the Gamecocks.
“We got embarrassed,” South Carolina linebacker T.J. Brunson remembered this week.
It was the final regular season game of Muschamp’s first season with the Gamecocks and his first matchup with archrival Clemson, and it went poorly. The Tigers, ranked No. 4 at the time, beat South Carolina 56-7.
“It just makes you want to come out and play hard and not let that happen again ever,” Brunson said as the Gamecocks get ready to go back to Death Valley for the first time since that day and play Clemson at 7 p.m. Saturday.
These are the details: The Tigers outgained South Carolina 622-218. Clemson rolled up 40 first downs and led 35-0 at halftime. Wayne Gallman had 112 rushing yards. Mike Williams had three receiving touchdowns and carried cornerback Jamarcus King into the end zone on one of them.
“I think more than anything, we went up there our first year and flat-out had some guys who didn’t compete, and that wasn’t going to happen again,” Muschamp said. “That was our message for our football team: It’s about competing. That’s the situation we were in. That first year, unfortunately, that’s why we were here. You have to continue to coach through that and continue to build the culture that you want within your organization. We’re much better now than we were then.”
Muschamp and “pretty much all the coaches” have mentioned that game this week, offensive lineman Zack Bailey said.
“A lot of us played in that game so it still burns in us,” Bailey said.
Before the game, the two teams got into an on-field shoving match. After the game, USC linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams alleged a Clemson offensive lineman used a racial slur during the game, prompting a denial from Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney and furthering the bad taste in the mouths of everyone in garnet and black.
“That why we need that chip on our shoulder, everything that happened two years ago and the outcome of that game,” junior center Donell Stanley said. “We weren’t happy about it. You never forget about that moment so we have to use that to motivate us.”
It was the largest margin of victory in the series in more than 100 years and the largest margin of defeat in Muschamp’s head coaching career.
“I think everyone knows what happened,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “We didn’t play well. We were a young team that got beat by a team with a lot of experience on it.”
South Carolina believes its experience this year will keep that outcome from being repeated.
“The last time I was up there, we kind of got into an altercation,” junior running back A.J. Turner said. “Not me myself personally, but a few people on the team got into an altercation in pregame and stuff like that. I know a lot of guys are from South Carolina and people get like real emotional about this game. I know there’s gonna be some stuff, or some things that’s gonna happen or some plays that are gonna be made that are gonna be real emotional. So we’ve just got to handle that in the best way possible.”