Wading in an orange sea: How it felt to watch Clemson's historic season — from a USC grad

BY DANNY KELLY
danny@theitem.com
Posted 2/11/19

Hello darkness, my old friend.

That’s probably what many South Carolina football fans thought when Clemson hoisted a national championship trophy for the second time in three years after …

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Wading in an orange sea: How it felt to watch Clemson's historic season — from a USC grad

Posted

Hello darkness, my old friend.

That’s probably what many South Carolina football fans thought when Clemson hoisted a national championship trophy for the second time in three years after defeating Alabama in dominating fashion 44-16 at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California, back on Jan. 7.

This was Clemson’s third national title overall, while the Gamecocks’ trophy case remains barren as far as national championship trophies are concerned.

Frustrating is an understatement for the Gamecock faithful. Not only did archrival Clemson prove it was the best team this year, but the Gamecocks also ended the season on a sour note when they put up a goose egg against Virginia, a team that didn’t even win the mostly weak Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division. The Gamecocks fell 28-0 in what was a pitiful performance on both sides of the ball in the 2018 Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Dec. 29.

What is also unsettling for Gamecock fans is the fact that Clemson doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Standout freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who won ACC Rookie of the Year and the national championship’s offensive MVP award, will be there for at least two more years due to NCAA rules, and so will a host of other future NFL players.

Clemson has become a machine, cranking out great team after great team and always in the hunt, if not competing, for a national championship.

Meanwhile, South Carolina is looking down the barrel of what will be a tough 2019 campaign. The Gamecocks have to play Alabama at home for their random SEC cross-division game (what a lucky draw) and have to travel to Athens to take on Georgia, who just narrowly missed making the four-team College Football Playoff after blowing its lead in the SEC Championship against the Crimson Tide. The Gamecocks will have a crack at Clemson at the end of the season like they always do, and this year it's at home at Williams-Brice Stadium. So, at least they have that going for them.

Other notable games next season include Texas A&M on the road, Kentucky at home and Appalachian State, who almost beat Penn State in overtime this past season, at home. All tough tests, to say the least.

However, on the bright side, the Gamecocks did something this season that no one else was able to do: put up 35 points and 600 total yards on Clemson’s elite defense. In Death Valley, no less. South Carolina still lost the game 56-35 due to an injury-depleted defense that couldn’t stop Clemson whatsoever, but it was a small victory for the offense. An “L” for the team, still.

It’s puzzling that, after that performance, the Gamecocks failed to score in their last six quarters of the season, dating back to the second half of the Akron game and the aforementioned blunder of a contest against Virginia.

While it looks like Clemson might extend their winning streak over USC to six games in a row this season and will be a heavy favorite to return to the CFP for the fifth year in a row, Gamecock fans are probably thinking of one thing above all others: What goes up, must come down.

However, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has the Tigers looking like a well-oiled machine that won’t stop running for some time, so it remains to be seen when that “down” will be.