COLUMBIA — Clemson’s frustration with The Streak peaked on a crazy Saturday night in 2013. The Tigers lost the always critical turnover battle at Williams-Brice Stadium yet in the fourth quarter were within one score of snapping South Carolina’s four-game rivalry win streak.
Wide receiver Pharoh Cooper’s touchdown pass to running back Brandon Wilds capped a 31-17 victory for Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks.
But South Carolina’s five-season dominance over a program Dabo Swinney led to 47 wins over the same period was best captured almost two years after Clemson snapped the skid.
“South Carolina’s been around a long, long time and (Steve Spurrier) took that program to a level they have never seen before,” Swinney said when the Head Ball Coach resigned midway through the 2015 season. “I guess I’m the unfortunate one to be at Clemson during the greatest run in the history of the school.”
With Clemson owning a five-game win streak going into Saturday’s game in Columbia, Muschamp could say something similar about Swinney’s run.
Clemson, 11-0 and going for a third national championship in four years, has never enjoyed such a stretch of football.
The “Why me?” difference is that South Carolina’s streak ended.
Clemson’s might not, at least not within the next several years.
With South Carolina limping in at 4-7 and recently punchless, the 2019 game projects as another rout.
Maybe closer to the 56-7 of 2016, Muschamp’s first season as South Carolina head coach, than the 34-10 of 2017 or 56-35 of 2018.
“Obviously, we need to do a better job as coaches and players in this game than we have in the previous three,” Muschamp said Tuesday, “find a way to win the game.”
Though all of South Carolina’s wins during their streak were by double-digits, Swinney was just asking for fewer turnovers and slightly better execution.
The Gamecocks on Saturday need former South Carolina players now in the NFL disguised as eligible participants.
It’s not a uniquely garnet problem. Clemson has only four losses over the last four-plus seasons, two of those to Alabama in postseason games.
But even for a rivalry that tilts hard to orange — Clemson leads the series 70-42-4 — this is a historically difficult, almost daily ordeal for those close to the Gamecock program.
And their families.
“It’s something you obviously hear,” Muschamp said. “It’s not something you like or want to become accustomed to. But you have to continue to coach through it, and play through it, and recruit through it, and develop through it.”
The aim, he said, is creating the “best situation you can for your football team.”
Swinney and his coaches know. They were the victims of “five bomb” photos after South Carolina’s glory stretch reached five; Gamecock fans posing as friendly folks would ask to have pictures taken with Clemson staffers (mostly Swinney) only to discreetly flash five fingers.
Post-five bomb history has been no fun for South Carolina seniors.
“It’s a challenge. It’s an opportunity,” senior center Donell Stanley said of Saturday’s game. “We know what those guys have done. A lot of people are not giving us a chance but we have to trust our process and trust our training and go out there and play to the best of our abilities.”
T.J. Brunson, a senior linebacker, was asked Tuesday for his favorite rivalry memory. The Columbia native mentioned safety D.J. Swearinger’s jarring hit on Clemson running back Andre Ellington during South Carolina’s 27-17 win at Clemson in 2012.
“It just hasn’t been the same,” Brunson said. “But maybe we can get it rolling again.”
The Gamecocks as a 21-point underdog stunned Georgia this season in Athens.
But “rolling” is too much to ask against the greatest run in Clemson history.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff