CLEMSON, SC (WIS) - The countdown is over, the monkey on the back of Clemson Tigers coach Dabo Swinney has finally been lifted, and the Tigers can wave goodbye to five years and 1,800+ days of wanting to beat the Gamecocks.
It happened in convincing fashion, too, by a score of 35-17. You can suspect the thrashing of South Carolina and coach Steve Spurrier was just five years of pent up frustration the Tigers had with being unable to beat their Upstate rivals.
An obviously cheery Swinney called the game the team's "best day," offensively speaking.
"It's good to be state champs again," Swinney said.
But really, it was the work of a trio of talented freshman who finally sealed the deal against the Gamecocks.
It begins with freshman QB Dashaun Watson, who we didn't even know would play until about 90 minutes before kickoff. There were concerns of a knee sprain and a bone bruise. Despite that, Watson racked up 269 yards and two touchdowns in the air and two more touchdowns on the ground.
But Swinney admitted Watson played the game with a torn knee ligament that will be surgically fixed in the offseason after the bowl game.
Watson's work also relied heavily upon two other freshman: wide receiver Artvais Scott and running back Wayne Gallman.
Scott ended the day with two touchdowns and 185 yards and Gallman came up with 196 yards rushing and a touchdown of his own.
Scott said the day's victory felt great, but it wasn't just about his performance.
"The seniors haven't won and we wanted to send them out the right way," Scott said. "We knew we had to break that streak that was going on, and that was a great way to win it."
But with all this youth in the offense, clearly Clemson players and fans as well are already thinking about the future.
"We were talking about it before the season started," Gallman said. "We knew what we were coming in to. We're ready for that."
But for the Gamecocks, the youth in the defense may have been the Achilles Heel. After all, that's been the story all season.
The Gamecocks tackling issues once again prevented them from stopping Clemson's three play makers. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward blamed being unable to practice outside for most of the week on the team's lack of tackling.
Meanwhile, coach Spurrier was simple in his assessment of the loss.
"Clemson was better than us," Spurrier said. "They played better and the coached better. Give those guys credit, they are better than us. They are a better team than we are. Simple as that."
South Carolina ends the season at 6-6, while Clemson ends the season at 9-3. Both teams will now await their respective bowl bids.