The baseball team plays Clemson this weekend and that gives us a great excuse to celebrate some of our best victories in the rivalry. What is your all-time favorite win over Clemson in any sport?
Since I already touched on the Clemson/SC baseball game in Charleston in a previous Roundtable, I'm going to go with the 2011 Palmetto Bowl due to its context. This was the Era of Good Feelings for South Carolina sports (remember those?) when we were between baseball titles, amidst our football run, women's hoops was trending upwards, and men's basketball...also existed. Clemson football was reeling. They'd started hot with eight wins but had lost two of three when they came to Columbia. We commenced to lambaste them in Williams-Brice in what I believe was the most lopsided of our five victories. The Tigers went on to win the ACC, and followed that by becoming a national punchline thanks to Geno Smith's West Virginia Mountaineers.
For meaningfulness, nothing comes close to the 4-3 win in Omaha on the way to the 2010 national championship. It's weird to call this my favorite as I didn't even get to see the game - I was on a flight home from California and missed the entirety of it. But outside of in a national championship or semifinal game in either football or basketball, or a national title game in baseball, there won't be a bigger win by either school against the other, ever. That's pretty damn fun.
As for one I actually saw - and hell, let's even limit it to an in-person viewing - nothing felt better for me than the 2001 shellacking of the Tigers, capping off an 8-3 regular season with a win that had been a long time coming. After SEC officials handed Clemson a win in the upstate the year prior, and coming off back-to-back strong showings in the SEC, we needed a win over our in-state rivals to cement our return from laughingstock to respectability. It wasn't the prettiest victory we'll ever record over the Tigers, but that 20-15 win felt as good as any I've seen against them.
Either of the games already mentioned are serious contenders, but I'll go with the 2013 football game. It was the last game at Williams-Brice for guys like Connor Shaw, Bruce Ellington, and Jadeveon Clowney, and it was the fifth year in a row of South Carolina beating Clemson convincingly. I was watching the game with some friends at the USC alumni bar in Chicago, and after having watched Auburn stun Alabama in the Iron Bowl, we were already pretty hyped up about football. But given that it was the rivalry game and both teams were having good seasons, everyone was pretty excited already anyway. To be honest, I don't remember much of the game, other than the outcome, but I do remember an entire bar Sandstorming in unison more than once.
Like Hoops said, there's really nothing in the history of the rivalry bigger than beating Clemson twice in Omaha on our way to a national championship. My favorite of those two games is actually the first (mostly because I adore Michael Roth) and it is so very close to being my favorite win over Clemson ever. But even though one of those games should logically be my favorite, in my heart it's our win in the 2012 Palmetto Bowl.
There is almost nothing about our 27-17 victory in that game that I didn't love. We went to their place with our backup quarterback and walked out with a win. We won our 4th in a row over Clemson and sent an entire class of Tigers off without ever allowing them to experience a victory over the Gamecocks. Clowney had a record-setting performance with 4.5 sacks against one of the best quarterbacks Clemson has ever had. DJ Swearinger taunted Andre Ellington after a big hit and it was both unnecessary and completely perfect. This game was just so much fun to watch and the best part was that it made Carolina a perfect 4-0 against the Tigers in my four years as a student.
To me, this is between the 2009 or the 2012 football games. 2010, 2011, and even 2013 were generally expected, while the 2006 win was nice but failed to lead to continued success. The 2009 win was a surprise and set in motion our rise to prominence over the next few years, and we were slight underdogs in 2012 as we came in with a seriously undermanned team and whipped Clemson without our starting QB or star RB. That 2012 win was a soul-crusher to the Tigers faithful, which is part of what made it so fun.
I'll go with 2009, though. First of all, that win was personally fun for me. I was in Albany and had been at a Phish concert the night prior. I watched the game with my friends in our hotel room, and we were in the midst of generally having a blast that weekend. We were tentatively hopeful for a victory but weren't expecting the whipping Carolina put on the Tigers. Watching that game was a really cathartic experience. 2007 and 2008 had been pretty painful experiences for Gamecocks fans, and while the 2009 team had been better than advertised, it hadn't managed to translate improved play into big wins other than against Ole Miss early in the season. Carolina finally got over the hump that afternoon. The Gamecocks whipped Clemson up front in that game, dominating both lines of scrimmage en route to an old-fashioned beat down. Love the memory of Garcia twisting the dagger with the TD pass to Wes Saunders after Alshon Jeffery nearly returned the failed Clemson onsides kick for a TD.