Venables: 'There's Real Hatred'
CLEMSON—“There’s real hatred with this rivalry. It means so much to so many people.”
Those words sum up the Clemson-South Carolina game for Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who understands what it is like to be a part of this rivalry.
"When we go to their place their stadium is full, and when they come to our place, the stadium is full,” Venables said. “It's pretty vile. It makes it fun though.”
However there is one aspect to the rivalry that is not “fun” for Venables—taking shots at head coach Dabo Swinney.
But it is not the shouting of “Go Cocks” at the games that crosses the line, it is when fans choose to seek out Swinney at their kid’s youth sporting events and shout “Roll Tide” that draws the ire of Venables.
“I just hear people being disrespectful to Coach Swinney in little league games and stuff,” Venables said. "If my child was ever disrespectful to anyone like that we would have some serious problems but I think it’s allowed in this rivalry so that’s an example, I guess.”
When Venables and his defense steps foot onto the field Saturday, they will do so with an understanding that the Gamecocks have nothing to lose and this game is, for all intents and purposes, their Super Bowl—which means they will have to make sure that they keep their poise and make sure they have prepared the right way.
"Obviously, it's a season of its own. We have a way to get ready just like I'm sure they do, just a very systematic way," he said. "Once you get to game day, that is where you got to have the poise it takes to win. I think there is a probably little more emotion. I think you would be naive to say there is not when you get to game day. Hopefully, our guys understand the poise it takes to play at a high level.”
And “play at a high level’ is exactly what the Tigers will have to do Saturday.
“They’ve got excellent skill, well-coached offense line,” Venables said. “They’ve had some drops that made some games closer than they needed to, but the quarterback puts the ball where it needs to be.”
Entering this week’s game the Gamecock offense has sputtered and gasped this season, ranking 99th in scoring offense, 73rd in rushing offense, 68th in passing offense and 80th in total offense.
Part of the issues have come from their inexperience at quarterback, after losing starting quarterback Jake Bentley, placing true freshman Ryan Hillinski and quarterback turned wide receiver turned part-time quarterback Dakereon Joyner in difficult positions.
"It’s been tough," Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp said. "Ryan and Dakereon have been put in tough situations for young quarterbacks, but that’s where we are. We need to play better around those guys to give them a better opportunity. We all share in it, and it starts with me and we have to get better."
However, Venables believes that even with the struggles that the Gamecocks have had this season, they are still a very capable and dangerous team.
“Those are two as good of players as there are in college football,” Venables said. “Both of them are terrific player and are having really good years. They make for a tough matchup for anybody. They are elite playmakers with the football.”