During Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s infamous rant about South Carolina last December, he talked of the Tigers’ history of domination in the series and said, “My kids’ grand kids won’t live long enough to see this really become a rivalry.”
Only time will tell if that’s the case. But what was undeniable on Nov. 24, 2012, is that there are Tiger players who will finish their college playing careers never knowing the thrill of beating the Gamecocks.
Those who first suffered that same, unique pain are now in their 70s.
None of the current players ever thought they’d live long enough to see that kind of history repeat itself — and they certainly never dreamed they’d be a part of it.
But they are, and for all the good Swinney has done and all the good he might do guiding this football team in the future, he is one of just two Clemson coaches who has ever lost four consecutive games to the school’s biggest rival. And that doesn’t make anyone affiliated with Clemson feel too chipper this morning.
Of course the other is Frank Howard, who did pretty well for himself and the program with 165 wins — although he was 13-15-2 against USC and lost four in a row from 1951-54.
Still, few people are interested in reliving the old days at the moment, especially since this seemed like the year Clemson would prove that three-game skid against Carolina was merely a burp in the buffet of life.
With just one loss and an offense that had jumped to warp speed in recent weeks, this regular season finale would be a chance to put ACC critics in shut-up mode and do the same for Gamecock fans, who have spent the last three Novembers crowing over the results of the annual showdown.
Instead Gamecock Nation has turned a Red State garnet for the fourth consecutive season — and done some serious collateral damage along the way.
The Tigers’ shot at a BCS bowl bid is gone.
Steve Spurrier became South Carolina’s all-time winningest coach at Memorial Stadium — snapping Clemson’s long home winning streak in the process.
And the opportunity to evangelize the ACC before a national television audience instead became a testament to why some people tend to merely dismiss the league.
In fact Clemson was the last, best hope the ACC had to make its case against the conference that has won the last six BCS crowns and will play for a seventh in January.
On a day that saw Georgia dismantle Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt thump Wake Forest and Florida pull away from Florida State with a 24-6 run, the Tigers were charged with salvaging a football version of the SEC-ACC challenge.
But when the night was done it was Spurrier once again grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat and making another statement in this bitter football feud.
And what is that statement, exactly?
Just this: For now, Clemson vs. USC is a rivalry.
And history aside, now is all that matters this morning.