Clemson players and coaches turn focus to Gamecocks: "I know they hate us"


by - Staff Writer -
Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas after making a play Saturday
Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas after making a play Saturday

CLEMSON – Clemson and South Carolina are heading in opposite directions heading into the annual rivalry game, but the Gamecocks already have the Tigers’ full attention.

Clemson improved to 11-0 with the win over Wake Forest Saturday afternoon, and the Tigers have already wrapped up a berth in the ACC Championship Game. Clemson is also ranked No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, while South Carolina is struggling with injuries during a season in which they might not make a bowl game.

However, head coach Dabo Swinney reminded his team in the locker room Saturday night that the Gamecocks are next.

“Sunday (is when Clemson will start thinking about South Carolina). Actually, Coach Swinney just talked about it, all the focus,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “Obviously, it's one of our goals. We have five goals for our season and it's a goal of its own. They guys look at that list of goals all year long and they know how important this is. Our guys know what we have the potential to do after this - after the South Carolina game - but Coach Swinney makes it very clear to our guys that all of our focus is into this game.

“We want to go out and play our best game and not really think about anything else. I expect us to have two weeks to get a good plan together and get some of these guys who got banged up healthy and go down there and play our best game of the year.”

Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott has played and coached in the rivalry, and he expects a war after the open date.

"I think it gives us a chance to get some guys who might be a little banged up, to get them back healthy and give us a chance to really study ourselves, gives us a chance to get a good perspective on this South Carolina week,” Elliott said. “So, at the end of the day, it's a season in and of itself. To have two weeks to get prepared to play, especially going down to their environment. It doesn't matter what the record is or how they're playing up to this point, it's going to be a war."

Offensive lineman Gage Cervenka grew up in Greenwood and he understands the rivalry – he knows the hate is real.

“I don't think they really like us. I think the biggest thing is their student section always throwing trash on us. That's my most recent memory. I just love it. I love going to that place because I just know they hate us and the feeling is mutual,” Cervenka said. “It really is and I'll straight up say it. I look forward to playing South Carolina every year. I grew up an in-state guy so I have to deal with this rivalry all year, every year when I was growing up. I went through the hard times of the fear the thumb and all of that. We're going for our sixth one so I'm really excited about this game.”

Cervenka said he doesn’t worry about the trash being thrown from the stands – he simply wants to concentrate on the player in front of him.

“I think their university officials are cracking down on it. A water bottle can't hurt me during the game,” Cervenka said. “I'm just worried about between the plays and blocking the guy in front of me.Just block it out. It's just talk. At the end of the day, you have to play the game. All of that talk is just leading up to it and is just dogs barking at each other.

“There's a video of all of these dogs at a gate barking at each other and as soon as the gate opens up all of the dogs just scatter. They're snapping at each other thinking they're going to fight each other and as soon as the gate opens up and they have the opportunity, they just walk away. That's kind of how it is. Just let it walk it away. We'll let the playing talk is how I think about it.”

Senior safety Tanner Muse said the game against South Carolina is a season of its own.

“We'll enjoy it tonight, come in tomorrow and watch the tape and correct things and move on Monday,” Muse said. “It's just the same old, same old. It's a season in its own because we're so close and because it's been a very thick rivalry. Now it's between blood between me and my brother. There are some things to talk about. Unfortunately, he doesn't get to play, but it will definitely be something we discuss.”

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