Commentary: It Wasn't South Carolina-Clemson


by - Correspondent -
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Tommy Bowden and Lou Holtz try to restore order on the field.

Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger


CLEMSON -- It was ugly, it was nasty, it was violent. It wasn't South Carolina-Clemson.

Saturday's brawl during the South Carolina-Clemson game was the worst display of sportsmanship this writer has witnessed.

From the beginning, when several USC and Clemson players got into it while the Tigers ran down the hill, you had a sense things might get nasty.

Throughout the course of the game, players exchanged one cheap shot after another. I ­ thanks to my sideline pass ­ got to witness a few punches the cameras didn't catch, including USC's Stanley Doughty punching Clemson's Reggie Merriweather in the stomach while he was down on the ground on the Tigers' drive prior to the brawl.

"There were a couple of cheap shots, but that's in any game," said Merriweather. "The N.C. State game they poked me in the eye and stuff like that.

"But it's a rivalry game. The heat is on. You have to put yourself in their situation. You might do the same thing too." Actually Reggie, I probably wouldn't.

Saturday's brawl was embarrassing to both universities, the fans and this state. Cool heads have to prevail, but for some reason tempers flared instead.

Why?



I don't know. I guess you can blame the passion of the rivalry. But this game has been heated for years and no such incident has occurred since the great costume caper of 1961, when a South Carolina fraternity dressed up and imitated the Clemson team prior to the start of the game.

But this latest brawl, which has been broadcasted on CBS, ESPN, ABC, NBC and CNN countless times, had little to do with the rivalry and more with the guys who are supposed to control the game.

Not one time did the officials call a personal foul on any of the late hits or cheap shots committed by either team. And trust me, they saw them.

Even during the pregame scuffle, the officials took the easy way out by assessing offsetting personal fouls.

"As far as the tempo of the game and cheap shots during the game, unnecessary roughness during the game, late hits during the game, I don't think there were any calls of that nature until all of sudden it escalated real quick," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden.

So does all the blame go to the officials? No, but they do have to take some.

If they had called just one of those personal fouls, the melee that start with 5:48 to play might not have taken place.

But the rest of the blame has to go to the players on the both sides. Bowden warned his team prior to their entrance to Memorial Stadium and they turned to a deaf ear.

When Gamecock running back Demetris Summers and several other Gamecock players drew the Tigers' attention when they came running down the hill, it prompted pushing and shoving which carried over onto the field.

"There was nothing (the referees) could do because I'm pretty sure you kick those players out and when the backups get in the same thing is going to happen because they really disrespected our tradition," said Clemson running back Yusef Kelly.

After several blows weren't called during the first three quarters and the first 10 minutes of the fourth, everything came to a head following a incomplete pass on fourth down-and-11 with 5:48 left.

After that play, Clemson defensive end Bobby Williamson stayed on top of USC quarterback Syvelle Newton a little longer than necessary. USC offensive lineman Chris White came to his quarterback's rescue and pushed Williamson off, starting a scuffle that had coaches from both sidelines come to break things up.






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But by that time, things got out of hand. South Carolina wide receiver Matthew Thomas blindsided Clemson's Justin Miller, and Miller came back and threw a punch of his own at Thomas.

Gamecock defensive end Charles Silas broke away from a law enforcement officer and tackled Clemson's Anthony Water in the east end zone, sparking several more players to get into, including USC and Clemson running backs Daccus Turman and Duane Coleman.

Helmets went flying off at that point with Kelly throwing a USC helmet into the crowd, where it was displayed proudly by Clemson fans.

"It's nonsense," said South Carolina head coach Lou Holtz. "You have to play the game. The only people who want to do all those extracurricular activities is usually the team that is not winning.

"You have to learn how to handle that."

But no one knew how to handle it, and despite what the scoreboard said, both teams lost.

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