Tavien Feaster as a Gamecock Adds Another Chapter to an Intense Rivalry

Zach Lentz

CLEMSON — The Clemson Tigers and South Carolina Gamecocks have had a lot of interesting storylines in their long and tenuous rivalry.

Though 29 is an unusual point total in football, four times in the last 36 years, the winner of the Clemson-South Carolina game has scored exactly 29 points. Charlie Whitehurst is the only starting quarterback to lead a team to four wins in the history of the series. He did that for the Tigers between 2002-05. Deshaun Watson could have potentially matched Whitehurst's accomplishment if he returned for his senior year, but the current Houston Texans signal-caller instead opted to enter the NFL Draft.

Clemson had three touchdown plays of at least 76 yards against South Carolina in 2006 in a loss. Jacoby Ford scored on 76-yard touchdown pass, C.J. Spiller on an 80-yard run and Jock McKissic on an 82-yard interception return. It is the only game in Clemson history in which Clemson had three scoring plays of at least 75 yards and still lost. In both 1948 and 1981, a blocked punt returned for a touchdown proved to be the pivotal play in a Clemson victory, victories that allowed Clemson to go on to an undefeated season. 

Willie Underwood had two interceptions to lead Clemson to victory over South Carolina in 1980. A starter for four years, the strong safety never had recorded an interception in any of his first 46 games as a Tiger, then had two against the Gamecocks in his 47th and final game. One of the picks was a 37-yard return for a touchdown, the only touchdown of his career. In a place kicking career that spanned five years, Bob Paulling made 107-of-109 extra points. Both of his misses were at South Carolina, one in 1981 and one in 1983. He had a streak of 70 consecutive made extra points (second-longest in Clemson history) between the two miscues. In the 30 games that Frank Howard coached for Clemson against South Carolina, Clemson scored 411 points and South Carolina scored 411 points

And finally, Paul Williams is the last player to letter for both schools. He lettered for Clemson in 1978 and for South Carolina in 1980. A Clemson captain actually played for South Carolina. Cary Cox, who passed away in 2008, lettered for the Gamecocks in 1943. After the war, he enrolled at Clemson and served as captain for the Tigers in 1947.

However, Saturday's game between the Tigers and the Gamecocks will see another player added to the list of players to letter at both schools, as former Tiger running back Tavien Feaster will suit up for the final game of his college career in the garnet and black — not the orange and purple.

“It’ll be weird seeing Tavien wear those colors," offensive lineman Matt Bockhorst said. "Tavien made a decision he needed to make for himself and it was certainly unorthodox, it hasn’t happened very often before. I mean Josh Belk sort of switched. Tavien’s a friend of mine, it’s all respect. I’ll be excited to see him after the game and since we’re both on offense, I won’t get to play against him in the game. I hope he’s doing well down there.”

Feaster has done "well" in his first and only season in Columbia.

In nine games this year, the Spartanburg native has rushed for 625 yards and scored 5 touchdowns, while also averaging 5.6 yards per carry.

"It’s going to be different for sure," quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. "I only played with him for a year, but obviously we had a good relationship, and it’ll be strange, I’m sure really weird for some of the other guys that played with him for three years. It’ll be good to see him, though.”

One player who knows Feaster better than anyone on the team is senior Sean Pollard, because he had spent the previous three seasons blocking for him. But even though Pollard understands Feaster's "business decision," he is not changing his contact information in his phone.

“It will be a little different because his name in my phone is still what he put in there as Tavien Feaster with two tigers (emoji) next to it," Pollard said. "I know our defense will mess around with him and I hope I get to see him before the game and share a few words with him. He’s a brother for life and teammate for life, and I know he had to make a business decision but we all respect him for it.”

While the Tiger players are anxious to see their former teammate and friend on the field, head coach Dabo Swinney is focused on one goal and one goal only — winning the game.

“It’s like when we play Alabama. I have a lot of friends that are still there and things like that and you see them before the game. But when the game starts, you are just playing the game,” Swinney said. “You are not sitting around thinking about stuff like that. You are so locked in on the game and just trying to do what you can for your team. That is just kind of part of it.

"When the game starts, it is just another player out there. You are trying to focus on winning the game and doing what you have to do to give your guys a chance.”