Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes


by - Senior Writer -
Discuss on TigerBoard   Print   | TigerNetcom Facebook ClemsonTigerNet Twitter TigerNet RSS Feed
Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes

Clemson and South Carolina will renew acquaintances Saturday afternoon in Columbia’s Williams-Brice Stadium, a venue that hasn’t seen a Clemson win since 2007. That will likely all change this weekend when the top-ranked Tigers and Dabo Swinney’s most talented team take on a 3-8 South Carolina program that is still reeling from a 23-22 loss to The Citadel this past weekend.

What a difference two years can make.

Two years ago, Clemson left Williams-Brice Stadium reeling from a fifth consecutive loss in the series, and many would have told you the programs were headed in opposite directions. They were right.

That season, I thought the Tigers would beat South Carolina in Columbia. I thought Clemson was more talented in that game and that the rivalry was about to change. Swinney had spoken to the members of the media more than once about having patience and how rivalries are cyclical. He pointed out that the auguries were pointing to the Tigers breaking what was then a four-game losing streak.

And then – a first quarter interception thrown by Sammy Watkins. The inexplicable abandonment of the running game. Six turnovers. Four turnovers in the fourth quarter alone. The score was tied at 17-17 in the fourth quarter when a comedy of errors ensued that ensured a fifth straight loss. There were head-scratching offsides plays. The turnovers. Mistakes. Penalties.

That fourth quarter? Defensive end Chaz Sutton ripped the ball from Tajh Boyd's arms with the Tigers driving for the tying score deep in South Carolina territory down 24-17. When Clemson forced a punt moments later, Adam Humphries fumbled the punt back to South Carolina. That's when a Pharoh Cooper pass to Brandon Wilds caught the Clemson defense off guard and put the game out of reach.

"Just give them credit. We never had six turnovers before," Swinney said. "That wasn't part of the script."

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier – who probably figured he would be a part of the rivalry for more than one more season – put it even more succinctly.

"They're a good team that continues not playing very well against us," Spurrier said.

We walked into the tunnel underneath Williams-Brice for the postgame interviews, and Swinney looked pale, washed out, out of answers. He spoke briefly with Athletic Director Dan Radakovich and I heard him tell someone else, “We’re the better team. We just didn’t play like it.”

As Swinney settled into the small, dingy room reserved for opponent’s head coaches, I avoided the crush inside the room and waited for players and coordinators outside the room. It was then I noticed one of Clemson’s defensive coaches sitting on a bench, staring off into space. He nodded, I said something that didn’t even come close to helping, and he muttered, “I just don’t get it.”

The Tigers had outgained South Carolina and beaten them at the line of scrimmage, but the six turnovers and the costly mistakes meant that the Gamecocks were mentally tougher at crunch time. It wasn’t just the coaches that didn’t get it – nobody that wore orange that day or in the weeks after could fathom what had happened. Again.

If you had asked fans from either team that night what they thought the future would hold for their program, you might have gotten vastly different answers. South Carolina was at the end of three consecutive 11-win seasons and would beat Wisconsin in the bowl game. Confidence was high, and many would have thought the program would win six, seven or even eight straight against the Tigers.

And then a funny thing happened along the way. Clemson kept recruiting. Kept following the lead set by Swinney. The Tigers won the bowl game against Ohio St., and like South Carolina lost plenty of talented players to the NFL. And kept on winning. Since that fateful night in Columbia, the Tigers are 22-3. The Gamecocks are 11-14.

Spurrier is long gone, running out on his team when they needed him most, taking his quips and his barbs and narcissism into the world of television, tucking his tail and running at the first sign of trouble. Swinney didn’t run at the first sign of trouble. Or five signs. He stayed the course, and now is the darling of the national media. He’s everywhere. And he will take his number one Tigers into the house of horrors known as Williams-Brice this Saturday as the heavy favorite.

Twenty four months ago the Tigers left that stadium full of questions. Now they seem to have all the answers, and the Gamecocks are the ones with all the questions as they look for a coach and someone to lead them out of the depths of a 3-8 season.

Maybe the Tigers lose. Maybe the perfect season ends and South Carolina finds a fitting way to end an otherwise dismal season. Swinney still won’t run, and he won’t make excuses. That’s what coaches with programs that are built to sustain success do. They sit in the dark after heartbreaking losses, they soul search, and they go back to work. And they succeed.

Clemson will more than likely win, and will head into the ACC Championship Game in early December needing one more win to qualify for the College Football Playoff.

What a difference two years makes.

Rate this Story:
124 votes

Send Feedback to David Hood: Email | Comment
Discuss on TigerBoard   Print   | TigerNetcom Facebook ClemsonTigerNet Twitter TigerNet RSS Feed
Post your comments!
Subject (Replies: 51) Author
spacer New Story: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
TigerNet News
spacer Very well written
Tim317®
spacer Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
tigersincepell®
spacer Re: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
tigersincepell®
spacer Re: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
74TIGER
spacer Re: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
b-tiger
spacer Re: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
tigersincepell®
spacer Re: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
jeancooper®
spacer Re: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
jeancooper®
spacer Re: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
jeancooper®
spacer Re: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
Tigerdug23®
spacer Re: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
tigersincepell®
spacer Re: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
tigersincepell®
spacer Some people will remember anything bad and never the good.
Tiger5
spacer Re: Some people will remember anything bad and never the good.
tigersincepell®
spacer Re: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
ddclemson
spacer Re: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
CU_Kobe_24®
spacer Excellent Article Mr. Hood! Perfection!***
Hi Cotton Tiger®
spacer One of your best. Honest and straightforward. Even if the
Bubbatiger84®
spacer Outstanding analysis, thank you!***
tigeron®
spacer Re: Outstanding analysis, thank you!***
Charlestontigersacc
spacer you made me look up a word***
CUinDE
spacer Perfectly stated....as far as the 2 different roads
Wytiger
spacer i got chills reading this!
clemson7024
spacer "augaries" - SAT word for the day. Nice job!***
1portroyalty
spacer Re: "augaries" - ahem it is auguries
sadmba
spacer Re: New Story: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
Dugatiger®
spacer Good article.
Tigerman1978
spacer USC got what they deserved with Spurrier***
Tiggity®
spacer Good article...I was depressed for days after that game***
nighthawk
spacer Re: New Story: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
Tiger_tK
spacer Honestly, I've felt like we were the better team the last
Bleedorange09
spacer Rev?! Is that you?!! Spot the #### ball! Nicely written.
1orangeblood
spacer Really enjoyed the article..."truth be told"
carjack007®
spacer It would be awesome to make a video
TigerSilas
spacer Re: New Story: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
gpcarter1983
spacer Clemson and South Carolina
tigersincepell®
spacer Bravo David****
smed
spacer Re: New Story: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
jeancooper®
spacer Re: New Story: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
Tigershaq®
spacer Re: New Story: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
Tigershaq®
spacer Re: New Story: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
ddclemson
spacer David, I think that some folks might find this offensive...
TonyTiger®
spacer Re: David, I think that some folks might find this offensive...
tigersincepell®
spacer **** GREAT STORY ****
mrderrik
spacer Re: New Story: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
TigerStripe_6317
spacer Great article that looks deep into two programs
jtmansmann
spacer Re: New Story: Clemson and South Carolina: What a difference two years makes
MaukaTiger®
spacer Am I the only one that caught the coot?
tigersincepell®
spacer Nice job, DavidHood.
TigerHawk76®
spacer et tu, David Hood?
ATL PAW MAN®
spacer Great Read!!
ChesterSC®
WATCH: Swinney on Deshaun Watson - 'He's just a winner'
WATCH: Swinney on Deshaun Watson - 'He's just a winner'
WATCH: Clemson Hype video "Extravagant Dreams" featuring Brian Dawkins
WATCH: Clemson Hype video "Extravagant Dreams" featuring Brian Dawkins
Clemson's T-shirt slogan for 2018: Accept The Challenge
Clemson's T-shirt slogan for 2018: Accept The Challenge
Tigers collect three more Watch List selections
Tigers collect three more Watch List selections
Scrimmage Insider: Defense better, but QBs missing too many zip code throws
Scrimmage Insider: Defense better, but QBs missing too many zip code throws
Five Clemson commits make new Rivals top-100
Five Clemson commits make new Rivals top-100
WATCH: Swinney on Brett Favre, Ohio State, Vegas Odds, Mike Williams
WATCH: Swinney on Brett Favre, Ohio State, Vegas Odds, Mike Williams
WATCH: David Hood's Tuesday Clemson scrimmage wrap
WATCH: David Hood's Tuesday Clemson scrimmage wrap
WATCH: Dabo Swinney's Tuesday scrimmage report
WATCH: Dabo Swinney's Tuesday scrimmage report
Sign Up for E-Mail News Alerts
Features
Breaking
Daily Digest
Clemson Gear
Clemson Gear