Clean Sweep: Clemson Seniors Looking For Perfection

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Beating your most hated rival at the end of a season is one goal set forth by every football player.

But how about beating that bitter foe twice in a row? Three times? How about never losing to them in your career?

That's the prospect facing Clemson's seniors Saturday when the Tigers meet South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. Having the opportunity to win a fifth consecutive game in this rivalry adds fuel to the fire that already burns between the teams.

"I was telling the young guys 'If you ain't ready for this week, you ain't a real football player,'" said senior safety Charles Hafley. "That's what it's all about this week."

Head coach Tommy Bowden, knowing how the slightest bit of print taken the wrong way can turn into bulletin board material for the opposition, has spent the week joining USC coach Lou Holtz in the Mutual Admiration Society.

He praises the Gamecocks, speaks wishfully of his teams chances, and for the most part avoids any statement that could be used by South Carolina for extra motivation.

The players, on the other hand, have made their feelings abundantly clear.

"(Never losing to USC) would be something that I would cherish," said senior guard Will Merritt. "I've talked to a lot of guys who graduated last year, or who played four straight years (and never lost), and what a special feeling that was. I'd like to go out like that."

There are some, however, who try to convince teammates and fans that this week is just another game.

They put on a cool exterior and try to downplay any added significance to the rivalry. To them, they say, it's just one of 11 games on the schedule.

But to a player like Kyle Young, who grew up a Clemson fan, watched his brother Will play for the Tigers, and now has a chance to finish his career without losing to the Gamecocks, there is no downplaying Saturday's game.

"Maybe to those guys, maybe they really don't (get excited)," said Young. "But to me, it doesn't get any bigger than this.

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