Today, these games all in the Ninties and early 2000’s are among the most heated and most remembered games of the series
1992: Signing the Paw
After an 0–5 start to begin the 1992 season (USC’s first in the SEC), freshman sensation Steve Taneyhill led Carolina to four wins in his first five starts as Gamecock quarterback. With Clemson needing a win at home to become bowl-eligible, Taneyhill led his team to a 24–13 victory and famously signed his name with his finger on the Tiger Paw at midfield following a key second-half touchdown. It made the blood of many Tiger faithful boil. It still does.
1994: “The Return”
With both teams entering the game 5–5 and trying to become bowl-eligible, South Carolina led 14–7 at the half in Clemson. Gamecock running back Brandon Bennett received the kick to start the third quarter, took a few steps, then turned and threw a backward pass to the other side of the field which was caught by defensive back Reggie Richardson, who then returned the ball 85 yards to the Tigers’ 6-yard line. Bennett ran it in for a touchdown on the next play, putting UofSC ahead 21–7 and the Gamecocks never looked back, going on to win the game 33–7. The win clinched a bid to the Carquest Bowl, which like most of their rare bowl appearances, the Gamecocks lost.
2000: “The Catch II”/”The Push-off”
In 2000, trailing late in the game 14–13, Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler connected with wide receiver Rod Garner for a 50-yard reception with 10 seconds remaining that put the ball at the Gamecocks 8-yard line. South Carolina fans point to a replay that seems to show Gardner pushing off Gamecock defender Andre Goodman, but Clemson fans contend that the contact was mutual and incidental. No penalty flag was thrown on the play, leaving Clemson kicker Aaron Hunt to kick a 25-yard field goal that gave Clemson a 16–14 win. Clemson fans remember this game as “The Catch II” while UofSC fans call it “The Push-Off Game”.
2001: A Bicentennial Win
In the 200th year of the University of South Carolina, the Gamecocks hosted the Tigers at the end of a successful regular season that saw them ranked in the Top 25 every week and 7–3 heading into the rivalry game. UofSC jumped out to an early 20–9 lead behind a strong ground attack, and held on to win 20–15 and secure a bid to their second straight Outback Bowl. In this year, because of the September 11 attacks, this was not the final regular season game for Clemson. The Tigers rescheduled their September 15 game against Duke for the first weekend of December.
These games, while interesting and noteworthy, were tame in comparison to the next installation of this retrospective, coming on Thursday. The volatility of these next few games would only bring this rivalry more notoriety.
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