Friends, I was this close to doing the 2011 game. It's probably the closest to perfection Connor Shaw could ever come, and it's a magnificent game to watch. But Connor Shaw won't be the man under center for the Gamecocks this Saturday. That duty, that responsibility, that burden goes to Dylan Thompson.
I say burden not with malice but with honesty. For Dylan Dog, the fires have never been hotter than they were this season. Hopes were relatively high, and Dylan was expected to keep the offense in sixth gear as he took to the driver's seat. Yes, Connor Shaw was beloved, and rightfully so, but Dylan had earned the respect and the confidence of fans. Though his appearances in 2013 were shakier than 2012, Dylan was The Man, through and through, and confidence was in the air at Williams-Brice.
Then, everything that has happened this season, happened. Too many times has the young man has sat on the podium, behind a folding table littered with microphones, tape recorders, and iPhones, with a look of profound sadness on his face. The rosy-cheeked quarterback, oft-clad in a "Gamecocks 4 Christ" t-shirt, would take the hits, regardless of his own performance. It was his duty. His responsibility. His burden. Because he took all that on by himself is the same reason he was carried off the field in Gainesville. He's a leader. He leads these men into Clemson on Saturday, just as he did two years ago. Let's go back to that game now, and watch Dylan lead this team against the Tigers before he does it a final time. We enter the game with 11:48 to go in the first quarter. Follow along here: youtube.com/watch?v=GK7r-FWsEPA
0:00 The ACC on ESPN?! Oh lord, I've done it now.
0:09 Prior to this game, Clemson had a 13-game home winning streak. Still doesn't make "Death Valley" any more true. Seriously, who outside of Clemson calls it "Death Valley"? Anybody?
0:21 Joe Tessitore and Matt Millen are on the call tonight. Tessitore is known for his boxing commentary, and Millen is known for being an incompetent front office honcho. Truly, these men are perfect to be the voices of ACC football on ESPN.
1:10 Tajh Boyd was coming into the game blazing hot, ranked second in the nation in passing efficiency after torching North Carolina State for eight total touchdowns.
1:28 Andre Ellington runs from the Wildcat formation, and I was surprised when the Carolina defense didn't give up 34 yards on the carry. Guess that's just a "this year's team" problem.
3:04 Our first Clowney sack of the night! Boyd pretty much ran into Clowney on that one, which is a testament to the psychic powers of Jadeveon Clowney.
5:46 When discussing Jadeveon Clowney, Matt Millen reminds us that Devin Taylor can "bring a little bit of heat" as well.
6:23 Millen then proceeds to say that Tajh Boyd "may be the best [quarterback] we've seen all season." This continues the proud tradition of broadcasters praising Tajh Boyd all game long as he proceeds to stink it up against USC. It's never not funny.
7:55 Millen keeps calling Tessitore "Tess", which is actually a really pretty name. These guys are cute as heck, albeit a bit dim.
9:17 Tajh Boyd runs it into the endzone, capping off a tremendous drive for Clemson. If you needed a reason why I posted so much about the commentary, it's because Clemson played quite well the whole drive, with a few exceptions along the front line. Carolina got into the backfield often, but credit to Boyd, he recovered nicely almost every time.
11:12 Tessitore proclaims that Clemson's pre-game of running down the hill has been called "the most exciting 27 seconds of college football". The person who called it that has never seen a single second of actual football, nor any other college football-related event or pre-game celebration of any kind. This person lives a worthless life.
11:48 In a SportsCenter Right Now update, we find out #4 Florida beat #10 Florida State, capping off an 11-1 regular season. They promptly lost in the Sugar Bowl to Louisville. Muschamp!
15:50 Yeugh, Brent Venables, what is wrong with your face? It looks like Skelator wrapped a flesh-colored stocking around his head. Also, am I using the right word? Stocking? Like panty hose but not plural.
17:07 Bruce Ellington catches a SICK pass on the side of the endzone for a touchdown! South Carolina couldn't run the ball to save their life on the drive, but Dylan drove them through the air with incredible efficiency, and a healthy mix of short- and medium-distance passes. After the extra point, we're all tied up at 7.
19:46 Roderick McDowell just rips off a 32-yard carry with ease. Whatever happened to that dude? And did his fate have anything to do with this bizarre case?
20:06 Tajh Boyd HEAVES it downfield, an absolute cannon blast, and it lands in the arms of DeAndre Hopkins, who falls into the endzone for a tocuhdown. Holy cow, that was really something. Talk about a counter-punch of a drive. Short, sweet, and painful. Too bad for Clemmy it would be the last TD of the night for them.
21:40 Boyd reportedly said during the week of the game that Clemson's goal was to score on every drive. Three outta twelve ain't bad!
23:41 Millen Quote of Note: "Kenny Miles is a good little player." Thanks, Matt.
28:35 Jimmy Legree pulls off a NASTY pick, coming from behind DeAndre Hopkins to snag the ball almost out of his hands. Unfortunately, it's ruled as pass interference on Legree, and Clemson is rewarded with a fresh first down.
32:30 Sanders must've taken a shot of rocket fuel along with his Gatorade, because he is lightning in a bottle right now. He just turned a five yard catch into 35 yards, with blazing speed and cat-like reflexes. Oy, too many metaphors. My bad guys. I went into an Chris Berman-like trance.
34:43 Clemson players and fans alike are absolutely going bonkers after Dylan is sacked on third down deep behind the line of scrimmage. This is hilarious because they're going to lose the game, you see. That's what makes it funny.
35:23 Fun historical facts for all you little idiots out there. Read up, ya dingus:
36:00 Really interesting note brought up here by Shannon, who talked about how the rivalry was with the players 24/7, because they often lived next to fans of the opposing teams. When Spurrier first got to South Carolina, he took down all the posters that said "Beat Clemson" because he wanted the team to focus on the entire season. I just thought that was a nifty story.
36:30 Oh s***, Millen is talking about Vic Beasley already. "He has great speed. Not good, GREAT." That's a seal of approval you don't want, Vic.
38:49 I got distracted for a minute, but then my attention was piqued again when I heard Matt Millen say "And because of that coverage Jerri-doo, was able to make his three hundred and... whatever pounds felt." Amazing. Get this man an Emmy.
39:35 Oh my god, Victor Hampton is mouthing off to Sammy Watkins so much, I love this.
43:30 Connor McLaurin name drop! By the way, remembered when it was fun to watch Dylan run? I miss that.
50:25 Fifth-year Senior Adam Yates is the kicker. Hey... good for him. That's what I say. I'm a giving man, a generous man, and I say if a kicker has paid his dues, then let the kid kick.
53:49 OH! OHHHHH! Oh, that was sweet. A diving interception by Devonte Holloman just as Tessitore and Millen were practically tongue-kissing Tajh Boyd with their loving comments. As an absolute, unapologetic homer, this was an erotic moment for me. Also, dap to Aldrick Fordham for the pressure.
1:01:40 Millen Quote of Note: "They got this freshman, this Brandon Nosovitch who, they tell me, is tearin' it up in practice."
1:12:15 Oh no, it's third-and-16. Whatever shall Dylan doooooo? How about throwing it to Ace Sanders, who jukes his way out of a tackle for a 35-yard gain and a TOUCHDOWN! South Cackylacky gets the lead, 17-14.
1:17:25 "This is kind of an important drive for Clemson, y'know? They haven't really done anything since the first half... or even the first quarter." This is the smartest thing Millen has said all night. Too bad he said it when Clemmy was on defense.
1:29:25 Back-to-back drives that result in field goals for both teams. ESPN runs a video of Steve Spurrier making fun of "Death Valley" and Joe Tessitore refers to him as "incorrigible". I hope that adjective shows up in his obituary, as well.
1:37:20 A little something of note: on a third-and-ten, Mike Davis catches a pass from the backfield, and positively shoots up the sideline for the first down. A nice little glimpse of what we'd get from Davis in the future.
1:40:10 Spurrier decides to go for it on a 4th-and-10, and it pays off... via pass interference. I'm telling you, the new moneyball is deliberately drawing pass interference calls. It worked in this year's Georgia game!
1:43:48 Another 3rd down, another pass interference call on Clemson. It's almost too easy! "Dabo Swinney is letting that official know exactly what he felt about that call." You better believe it involved a lot of "heck"s and "shoot"s.
1:46:35 Aw, Dylan finally throws a pick. It helps watching this now knowing that more touchdowns are on the way. Xavier Brewer is having a good game, though, with a sack and now a pick in the back of the endzone. Really admirable work by him.
1:49:50 DJ Swearinger makes his presence felt with a demolishing hit on Andre Ellington, before flexing in front of his face and drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Not gonna lie, I was pretty pissed at him for the penalty at the time, but DAMN that hit was fiiiiine.
1:51:14 Clowney once again puts the heat on Tajh Boyd, and Brison Williams picks it off with ease! Clowney absolutely hammered Boyd after not even being touched by the offensive line. Man, we had it good with him, didn't we?
1:53:50 The announcers still can't believe that Tajh Boyd, a Heisman candidate, is performing so poorly, and that it's Thompson who is throwing lights out. Disappointment in Tajh Boyd is something I feel people should have gotten used to by 2012.
2:02:50 Fun fact: William "The Refrigerator" Perry is the only player from either Clemson or South Carolina to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Thanks, Aflac trivia!
2:06:30 BRUUUUUUUUUUUCE! (He caught a touchdown pass, in case you don't speak Ellingtonese)
2:08:55 Clowney sacks Tajh for the fourth time. As Tess said, "He went superman on Tajh Boyd." I think that's as good of a place as any to wrap this up. Thanks for reading kids, and as always...