CLEMSON, S.C. -- There have been some mighty great accomplishments at Clemson the last two years, accomplishments that have placed the Tigers into early preseason national championship talk.
But there is one gaping hole, one accomplishment that has been missing four straight years. You do not need vandals spray painting Tiger paws up in Columbia to know what it is. South Carolina has had the Tigers' number of late. And the folks in Clemson know that has got to change.
"Not beating those guys since I’ve been here, it’s rough," quarterback Tajh Boyd said. "We have to get a win. That’s a while away but again that’s on our mind as well. If we win that game last year, I don’t know where we end up at. Could have been the Sugar Bowl. So after that game, it was a rough loss being that we had the team to win. We just didn’t perform to our level of capabilities. We didn’t come out ready to play. They went out and performed better than us, but I don’t think we played near where we’re capable of."
The turning point in that game happened in the fourth quarter, with Clemson driving for the go-ahead score. Boyd threw an interception and the Gamecocks ended up winning in Death Valley, 27-17. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris believes Boyd would have been a Heisman finalist had he thrown a touchdown pass instead of an interception to lead Clemson to the win.
"Woulda, shoulda couldas," coach Dabo Swinney said. "When the game is over, you've got to live with the results. We know the reality of where we are as a program and we know the reality of that game."
The reality: Getting a win in that game is a driving force, not just for players who have never beaten the Gamecocks, but for Swinney, too. Clemson leads the all-time series, but South Carolina has tied a school record with its four-game winning streak over Clemson.
"There's only two things you can ding us on the last four years. We have not won the national championship and we have not beaten South Carolina," Swinney said. "You have to give South Carolina a little credit. Never ever have they been top 10 in the history of their school. Coach [Steve] Spurrier and his staff have been as good as anybody. It's not like we've gotten beat by a bad football team. This is a team that's been better than us on that day. There’s nothing I can do about it. We have to live with it unfortunately, and trust me I live with it every day. Every day you wake up and put this hat on your head, you gotta deal with the result of that game.
"I grew up in that type of situation and it's no different here. It’s a huge game and it's one of those things we haven't done in four years. I probably don't have the job if we don't beat them when I was interim. That's a major goal. Because if you beat South Carolina, you just beat a top-10 team. This is not an unranked six-, seven-win team. This is a team that's beaten Alabama and everybody across the board, and I give them all the credit. My focus is Clemson, and my focus is getting this team competitive enough to where we've got a chance to win them all. Not just one game. We want to win them all. Nobody is going to be satisfied here until that happens."