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Clemson-South Carolina Series

Nov. 22, 2000

By Jack Felling Clemson Sports InformationThe South Carolina Game Program – November 18, 2000

The major bowl implications may be the least significant issue that will be decided by today’s game between Clemson and South Carolina. At stake is the pride of students and families whose loyalties have only grown stronger in the 104 years since the Clemson vs. South Carolina series began. The result will determine more than bragging rights. A victory legitimizes an allegiance to a team that, for at least a year, has the upper hand in the most passionate rivalry in college football.

In 1896 South Carolina defeated Clemson 12-6 in the first gridiron match up between the schools. A crowd of nearly 2,000 were in attendance. For 64 years the game was played as part of State Fair Week in Columbia. Until 1958, the contests had not been held on Saturdays, and the day of the game was referred to as “Big Thursday”. The game was the main event in the most important yearly exposition in the state. The origin of the series at the State Fair accounts for why this rivalry remains a defining characteristic of the culture of South Carolina. The story of this state cannot be told short of mentioning the history of the Clemson vs. South Carolina rivalry.

Hostilities did not take long to develop. Serious tensions occurred following the 1902 game, when South Carolina emerged victorious in a meeting of unbeaten teams. South Carolina fans paraded thorough downtown Columbia carrying an image of a Gamecock standing over a defeated tiger. Clemson cadets in military uniform marched onto the South Carolina campus intent on destroying the displayed picture. Before a full-scale riot emerged, the image was burned between both factions.

The near-disastrous effect of the post-game occurrences in 1902 led to the suspension of the series until 1909. The series has not been interrupted since. Today’s game marks the 92nd consecutive meeting between the schools. The only longer active streaks in football are Kansas vs. Nebraska and Minnesota vs. Wisconsin.

In last year’s meeting with South Carolina, Keith Adams set a Clemson record with 27 tackles in the game. But Adams has nothing on O.K. Pressley an injured All-American whose effort launched Clemson to victory over a 5-0 South Carolina team in 1928. Coach Josh Cody repeatedly denied Pressley’s efforts to enter the game. The game was still close when South Carolina pushed deep into Clemson territory in the second half. Cody realized that he couldn’t keep his team’s injured captain off the field any longer.

Pressley entered the game and made four consecutive tackles for losses of eight, seven, five and seven yards, respectively. Clemson went on to shutout the Gamecocks and improve to 6-0 on the season. No other Clemson athlete has ever recorded a tackle for loss on four successive plays.

The antics of the fans of this series warrant as many stories as the athletes themselves. The most famous was orchestrated by a group of South Carolina students in 1961. Dressed as the Clemson football team, the students, with the permission of South Carolina coach Marvin Bass, dressed in full uniform and jogged onto the field impersonating the Tigers during warm-ups. Even Clemson’s band was fooled as they began playing Tiger Rag. Though the sloppy drills were an indication to most fans that the team was not the real thing, the group made it clear when they broke out into a rendition of Chubby Checker’s “The Peppermint Twist”. At that point the Clemson section of the stands emptied. Nobody was seriously injured.

One year later, in 1962, the schools agreed to always hold the Clemson vs. South Carolina game in the last week of the regular season. However, the 1963 match up was postponed when news broke of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The tragedy led to the only Thanksgiving game in the history of the series.

One of the most thrilling games of the series took place in 1977 in Columbia, a game televised on ABC. Today’s game will also be shown on that network, an example of the interest in this rivalry. Jerry Butler caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Steve Fuller with just 49 seconds left to give Clemson the victory and a Gator Bowl bid. That was Clemson’s first bowl bid in 18 years.

The Tigers have never entered the game with more to lose than in the National Championship season on 1981. Clemson’s victory was thanks in part to the efforts of brothers Rod and Chuck McSwain. Rod blocked a South Carolina punt into the endzone, and Johnny Rembert recovered to give the Tigers an early 7-6 advantage. Chuck rushed for 151 yards to lead Clemson to a 29-13 win. Perhaps the most unique image of the 81 season was that of exploding oranges on the South Carolina AstroTurf. They were being tossed from the Clemson student section to signify the Tigers Orange Bowl birth.

The Clemson vs. South Carolina game has been decided in the Tigers favor in each of the past three seasons. However, Lou Holtz enters this game with a 4-1 personal record against the Tigers. He never lost in four meeting with Clemson while at North Carolina State, including a 2-0 mark at Death Valley.

Clemson earned a 58-45-4 all-time advantage in the series with a victory last year. The win kept Clemson eligible for a bowl game while keeping South Carolina winless for the season. For Clemson, several of the big performers from 1999 will have to repeat their efforts in order for Clemson to extend its winning streak over the Gamecocks. Travis Zachery rushed for 105 yards in that game while Rod Gardner caught six passes for 138 yards. Each had a pair of touchdowns. Woodrow Dantzler completed 14 of 26 passes for 249 yards in the win.

This year figures to be a thrilling game. The two teams have combined for 15 wins and are both bowl eligible. That is the first time since 1988 that the two teams have at least 15 combined wins heading into the contest. Clemson and South Carolina were both 8-2 heading into that contest, a 29-10 Clemson win in Rodney Williams last home game.