Rivalries can bring out the best and the worst in the opposing fanbases. The Clemson-South Carolina story dates back to 1896 and is marked by multiple brawls between players and fans. A brawl between fans halted the series at the turn of the 20th century. Counterfeit tickets and the strangling of a live chicken nearly led to a riot in 1946. Terms like “The Catch,” “Orange Pants,” and “63-17” conjure pride in the Clemson faithful and raise the blood pressure of the Gamecocks supporters. The anger, acrimony and animosity are what makes rivalries special and, at times, dangerous. The prospect of fans hurling bottles at Clemson players during warmups has been a topic of call-in shows and even addressed by head coach Dabo Swinney. Whether or not the fans and students toe the mark of civility, the mixture of these two fanbases, one of which is enduring a frustrating campaign, is a highly combustible one.
Despite the early start time, the Tigers are expecting an inhospitable atmosphere. Senior guard Gage Cervenka, a Tigers fan from his youth, wouldn’t have it any other way, “It’s a little different (at Williams-Brice). It’s a little more hostile than normal. Sometimes you’ve got to make sure to keep your helmet on going for halftime and things like that. Things that you don’t always think of when you’re at other places …. There’s a lot more middle fingers at you than at other places. It’s something that I enjoy. We’re going to battle. It sets the mood. I’m ready to go in there and just fight. It’s always fun to go into. It’s not always welcoming, and when you’re on the road, that’s what you want.”
Another topic addressed by Swinney at his weekly press conference was the lack of recognition for his players by organizations handing out awards for individual achievement. Swinney singled out wide receiver Tee Higgins and quarterback Trevor Lawrence before calling Travis Etienne “the best running back in the country.”
Etienne gave his thoughts on the same topic, “Honestly, it really doesn’t (bother me). We’re where we want to be as a team. We control our own destiny. Football is the ultimate team sport. I can’t get caught up in individual awards when our focus is to end up as the national champions at the end of the year.”
If Etienne and the Tigers are to reach that goal and repeat as national champions, they will have to vanquish their arch-rival a sixth consecutive time. Clemson and South Carolina are scheduled to kick off from Williams-Brice Stadium at noon, Saturday. The Tigers are 26.5-point favorites.
Running back Travis Etienne
Guard Gage Cervenka
Safety Denzel Johnson