The Head Ball Coach claimed one of the game balls from Saturday for himself, and it was well-deserved. Carolina and Clemson not only looked like they traded places historically in the Gamecocks’ 34-13 win, but are mirror-opposites of where the teams were midway through this season. The 2011 Tigers are definitely not in the conversation for the best-ever at Clemson. But USC is one bowl win away from ending the argument as the best group of Gamecocks fielded in Columbia.
When asked about grabbing the game ball after the final whistle, Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said, “The ref was walking off with it. I said I might as well grab it. Nobody else seemed to want it. I like to fix them up. The 10 wins (was the reason). It’s neat to beat Clemson because historically they’ve owned South Carolina, but they don’t own us right now, that’s for sure. Mainly the 10 wins (is why it’s important). We talked about winning 10, more than we talked about beating Clemson. I hope our fans have come to the conclusion that to beat your rival, hating them is not the answer. Hating them and trying to kick their tails is not the answer. The answer is how our guys played tonight.” Even his harshest critics woould have to admit those are some pretty impressive words.
As strange as it sounds, maybe it took cutting ties with a fifth-year senior, mercurial quarterback and losing a Heisman Trophy-candidate running back to injury for the pieces to come together. Because after six years of plugging away and struggling, Spurrier’s Gamecocks have matured into a quality program while competing at the highest level of the game. A lot of the credit can be given to USC quarterback Connor Shaw. That kid was ON FIRE!
“Defensively, the quarterback beat us, and that is the most disappointing thing to me coming out of this game, that we let the quarterback beat us,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We knew exactly what they were going to do, and we couldn’t stop it. Really poor on third down, and then gave up some big plays at some tough times. Lost the turnover margin again, just not playing winning football, simple as that. I congratulate South Carolina.”
Spurrier added, “Connor can take care of the ball and run with it. Every now and then he pulls it down when it’s not there. He played with no turnovers, no interceptions. That was huge. He doesn’t have very many stupid plays. He’s gained confidence.”
I love Clemson and am so proud to call myself a Tiger. Like many of my fellow Clemson faithful friends, when we were 8-0, I was a walkin’ around as high as a Georgia pine. But I am honestly numb and baffled as I have watched the last four games. I pray that Dabo can pull some miracle and turn the situation around before next weekend. The Va. Tech Hokies are kicking ass and taking names right now and I don’t want “Clemson” to be added to that list. But this piece is not about Clemson. It’s about a Damn-good Gamecock Team that has turned adversity into unprecedented success, and they are to be commended for it.
All congratulations to Carolina, Shaw, defensive leaders Melvin Ingram and DeVonte Holloman. And even to the The Ol’ Ball Coach… But if the Gamecocks go 10-2 next season, it’d be real nice for this Tiger if Clemson was included in the “2.”
by J.L. Mann Cromer, Jr., an Attorney licensed to practice in South Carolina, California & The District of Columbia. He received his BA in 1985 from Clemson University and his JD in 1988 from the University of South Carolina School of Law.