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Tigers Send West Out a Winner

November 21, 1998

Final Stats

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – Clemson coach Tommy West, fired only three days earlier, rode out of Death Valley a winner as the Tigers dumped South Carolina 28-19 Saturday night.

Javis Austin’s two touchdowns led the Tigers (3-8), who closed their poorest season in 23 years. The Gamecocks (1-10) lost their 10th straight game and finished with the worst mark in 105 seasons of football.

Usually, the season-ending rivalry is filled with bad jokes and bad attitudes among the half-crazed fans. But this season, bad football and the coaches’ futures were about the only topics discussed.

The Tigers settled things Wednesday, firing West and setting ablaze whispers that Tulane’s Tommy Bowden, Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer or even Clemson’s national championship icon, Danny Ford, would soon prowl the sidelines.

South Carolina coach Brad Scott’s career is still up in the air. He’ll meet with South Carolina athletic director Mike McGee early next week to evaluate the program. McGee said he would take a hard look at the team’s progress since Scott, with a 23-32-1 record, arrived five years ago.

Only hours before the game, CBS analyst Lou Holtz brushed aside rumors he’s a candidate to step in if Scott’s sent packing. Holtz said he didn’t belong in the control booth, “but I also don’t belong on the sidelines right now.”

As far as the game, Austin powered Clemson to a 14-7 halftime lead and the Gamecocks got no closer. The loss was South Carolina’s 13th in the past 14 games and also ended the odd-ball streak of the road team winning the past seven years.

Austin caught a 7-yard shovel pass from Brandon Streeter to end the Tigers’ first possession. He also finished a 12-play drive in the second quarter with a 4-yard scoring burst.

Linebacker Howard Bartley returned Anthony Wright’s interception 48 yards for Clemson’s clinching touchdown on the Gamecocks second play after halftime. Clemson looked like it would add a second interception return score, but safety Michael Allen was dragged down at the Gamecocks’ 4. The Tigers were halted on fourth down.

West, who first came to Clemson in 1983 as Ford’s assistant, had vowed not to leave before coaching one more game. He ran down Memorial Stadium’s hill – a traditional opening – by himself and spent his final Valley moments on the shoulders of his players. His wife and son came up to hug him as fans ripped down the goalpost in front of Howard’s Rock.

West, his assistants and players were swallowed by the seas of fans who flooded the field like they had won another national title.

South Carolina moved the ball strongly in the first half, but only scored on its opening drive when Anthony Wright swept in from 4 yards out. Steve Mixon added two second half touchdowns on a 1-yard run and a 3-yard pass from Phil Petty.

The Gamecocks were held to 40 yard rushing.