Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Some Clemson-USC Games Will Never Be Forgotten

A rivalry built on politics, geographics, curriculum, pre-game traditions, family feuds, brawls, mascots and school colors has been tabbed in a recent book as the most underrated rivalry in the nation.  While Clemson commands a 65-37-4 record against the University of South Carolina, the rivalry continues to generate trash talking, season and life-long hatreds and simply office and bar room debates that consume the respective fan bases.  Clemson's victory edge often gives their fans the most opportunity for strong trash talking, there have been moments when the Gamecocks of South Carolina have had the upper hand just enough to keep the fire in this rivalry alive.  Some of the more memorable moments are captured from the Clemson-USC archives.  Do you see any that you will never forget?

1961: The Prank

In 1961, the USC fraternity Sigma Nu pulled what some have called the greatest prank in the rivalry's history. A few minutes before Clemson football players entered the field for pre-game warm ups, a group of Sigma Nu fraternity members ran onto the field, jumping up and down and cheering in football uniforms that resembled the ones worn by the Tigers. This caused the Clemson band to start playing "Tiger Rag," which was followed by the pranksters falling down as they attempted to do calisthenics. They would also do football drills where guys would drop passes and miss the ball when trying to kick it... Clemson fans quickly realized that they had been tricked, and some of them angrily ran onto the field. However, security restored order before any blows could be exchanged. Carolina won the game 21-14, although Clemson was on the Gamecock one-yard-line when time expired.

1975: Most Points Scored by Carolina
On November 22, 1975, Carolina defeated Clemson 56-20 to set a Gamecock record for most points scored in a football game against the Tigers.

1977: "The Catch"
On November 19, 1977, Clemson WR Jerry Butler made a diving, backwards, 20-yard touchdown reception on a pass from QB Steve Fuller with 49 seconds left in the fourth quarter to give Clemson the 31-27 victory in Columbia. This play is known as "The Catch" and is one of the most memorable plays in the rivalry[56].

1980: Orange Pants
In the last regular season game for the 1980 season, a heavily favored Carolina team traveled to Death Valley to take on the Tigers. In a surprise to both the players and the fans, Coach Danny Ford unveiled new orange uniform pants for the Tigers to wear. This was the first time in Clemson's history that they wore orange pants in any combination for a football game. Inspired by the pants, the underdog Tigers defeated the Gamecocks, 27-6.

1981: Clemson wins a National Championship
In 1981, Clemson defeated Carolina 29-13 en route to the National Championship.

1987: Highest Ranked Match-Up
On November 21, 1987, with the highest combined rankings of the two football programs entering the game (the Gamecocks were No. 12 and the Tigers were No. 8), Carolina beat Clemson 20-7 on national television (ESPN).

In 2000, Trailing late in the game 14-13, Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler connected with wide-receiver Rod Gardner for a 50-yard reception to South Carolina's 8-yard line with 10 seconds remaining. Carolina fans point to a replay that seems to show Gardner pushing off the Gamecock defender, but Clemson fans contend that the contact was mutual and incidental. No penalty flag was thrown on the play, leaving Clemson kicker Aaron Hunt to kick a 25-yard field goal that gave Clemson a 16-14 win. Clemson fans remember this game as "The Catch II" while Carolina fans call it "The Push-Off Game".

2003: Most Points Scored by Clemson
In 2003, Clemson defeated Carolina 63-17, and Clemson's 63 points are the most scored by either team in the series. Interestingly, South Carolina was a slight favorite according to odds-makers.

2004: The Brawl
The South Carolina-Clemson brawl during the 2004 football game is the most recent eruption of hostilities in this rivalry. It is also the last time Lou Holtz coached, having retired shortly thereafter. Clemson won the game 29-7. Each team had won a total of six games that year and were technically bowl eligible. However, both schools elected to forfeit their postseason because of the shameful nature of the fight.

2005: A Quarterback Wins 4
In 2005 the two teams showed an unusual gesture of sportsmanship by meeting at midfield before the game to shake hands, putting the mêlée of 2004 behind them. Clemson won this game 13-9, marking quarterback Charlie Whitehurst's 4th win versus the Gamecocks, which is the first time a starting quarterback from either team notched four wins against the other team.

Clemson ranked 24th going into the game watched a 14-point lead dwindle away as the Gamecocks rallied for a come-from-behind victory over their arch rival on two touchdowns by Mike Davis and a Ryan Succop 35-yard field goal.  The game was finally decided on a missed 39-yard field goal try by Jad Dean that sailed wide left to end the game 31-28 USC.  Snapping the four-game win streak against the Tigers.  The Gamecocks had been 0-5 against ranked opponents that year.

2007: Last-Second Victory
On November 24, 2007, Clemson kicker Mark Buchholz hit a 35-yard field goal as time expired to give No. 21 Clemson a memorable 23-21 victory over South Carolina and leave Gamecock's coach Steve Spurrier with the longest losing streak of his college career. The defeat completed a late season collapse for the University of South Carolina, who lost their last five games and fell from No. 6 in the national polls to finish at 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the Southeastern Conference. The win lifted Clemson coach Tommy Bowden to 7-2 all-time against the Gamecocks and 2-1 all-time against Spurrier, and prevented the Gamecocks from receiving a post-season bowl invitation. The 2007 game is notable as the first in the series with the winning points scored on the game's final play.

This year's season, full of ups and downs for both squads, finds Clemson on the brink of its' highest "up", while South Carolina finds itself at one of it's all too common last season low.  One established "Ole Ball" Coach and another Young Head Coach trying to establish himself.  Both teams have had great wins and unacceptable losses in this season, but unfortunately for this game, regardless of highs and lows, a loss will be a low for either squad, offering state bragging rights for the winner.  For Clemson it would end the dominance for now if USC wins.  For South Carolina it could end the season if Clemson wins, after being bowl eligible five weeks ago.  Either way, this year's game offers another opportunity to establish a game or moments that will not easily be forgotten, this rivalry seems to create that special moment more often than not.

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