Dabo finally gets it, beating the Gamecocks is important

It’s been four years since the Clemson Tigers have been able to claim the rivalry title that began in 1896 between the Tigers and the Gamecocks of the University of South Carolina.

Names like James Davis, CJ Spiller, Cullen Harper, and Jocoby Ford kept the title in Clemson for the second year in a row under the tutelage of interim head coach Dabo Swinney. This was the season that Tommy Bowden resigned 6 games into the season.  South Carolina featured Chris Smelley, Kenny McKinley, and Mike Davis. That was the last time that Clemson won the series.

Those were the days for the Clemson faithful, at least when it comes to this rivalry. Clemson fans would of course say that they are back on the move and the 2011 season was one of the best ever. But, it didn’t feature a win over the Gamecocks.

Last year’s matchup between these two teams was nothing more than a game that Clemson had to endure, and avoid injuries on the way to playing in the ACC Championship game and then the Orange Bowl. We all know about the outcome of the West Virginia vs Clemson game in that Orange Bowl. Legend has it that if you find a dark, quiet area, close your eyes and listen closely, you can hear WVU scoring once again.

Year after year, I sat in the ACC Football Kickoff preseason media room before the start of the football season and asked Coach Swinney and his players how much winning the South Carolina game meant to them. Was it an important game? Did they prepare any differently? Did they get hyped up for the game?
Year after year, Swinney and his players would proclaim the normalness of the matchup. They would claim that the South Carolina game was no more important than any other, every game was important. They prepared for them all the same.

I heard this standard, cliché line in 2009, before Clemson lost 34-17 in Columbia. I heard it in 2010 when South Carolina beat the Tigers 29-7 in Clemson. Surprisingly, after two losses in a row, Swinney continued to give the party line when asked the same set of questions. Clemson lost that third one in a row last year back in Columbia 34-13. But, then again, the Tigers were preparing for that ACC Title game.

After three years, Clemson fans can now rejoice, Dabo Swinney gets it. Beating South Carolina is important. Some fans would even say it’s required. Swinney said earlier this year, “At Clemson, quite frankly, until you win them all, nobody is going to be happy.”

That’s true, but Clemson fans are tired of losing to the Cocks year after year. It’s been a long time since the Gamecocks have won three in a row. In fact, through the years the Tigers have dominated the series, leading 65-40-4. Clemson has put together seven in a row, while the Gamecocks have topped out at four straight. Those four straight came during the years of 1951-1954. A win this year would equal that.

Swinney is determined not to let that happen. “It’s impossible for that game to be any more important to me. The fact of the matter is, we haven’t played well and they’ve played great. They’ve had a nice run and it’s our job to change that,” said Swinney.

6-foot-5, 285-pound senior center Dalton Freeman gets it as well. During the ACC Media days, he was adamant that that string would end this year. Freeman’s passion for the game and rivalry had finally come out. It was no longer “every game is important”. It had now become “This is my last year, and I want to go out with a win. It’s important to our fans, and it’s important to us.”

With the mudslinging that occurred after the game last year and with Swinney proclaiming that the real USC was in California, emotions are going to be high. But, this Gamecock fan will tell ya, this one means something to the Tigers. They’ll be amped up, and ready to get some revenge. They know the record and this one will most certainly be important this year, especially without that ACC Title matchup to distract them.  So talk the smack, Cocks, but speak softly because we just might be eating our own “Crow” this year.

The Gamecocks are certainly talented, but are feeling the effects of injury. The Tigers are hungry, healthy, focused and determined. The streak ends here. Swinney will demand it, because he finally gets it. “It’s impossible for that game to be any more important to me,”says Swinney.  This isn’t a normal game. This is The Battle of the Palmetto State.

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2 responses to “Dabo finally gets it, beating the Gamecocks is important”

  1. Ben E says:

    Just because Swinney and the team downplayed the importance of the game over the years does NOT mean they did not understand its importance. It goes without saying though, that every loss increases the importance for the losing team.

  2. 4NAROW says:

    How did that work out for you? Another Loss and to the SC backup QB and backup RB……….. 4 in a row.

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