Perfect Finish

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson flies into the end zone for a touchdown Saturday in Columbia. The Tigers improved to 12-0 for the first time since the 1981 National Championship season and now prepare for a trip to the ACC Title game against North Carolina. (USNews)

Thanksgiving is always an extra special week in my household. The entire family usually gathers at our house and we are the epitome of a “family divided”. The division spreads through my extended family so it always makes rivalry week a lot of fun.

For years I’ve tried to get a group of us to actually go to the game together and after several years of persistence, this year I finally got us all together and it was a great time. The same group of us will be attending the ACC Championship this coming weekend and while I don’t expect I can convince them to wear orange, I know they’ll be supporting us as we continue the chase for a national championship.

Saturday was pretty much a perfect day for this Clemson fan. I made the drive down to Columbia for the high-noon kick early Saturday and arrived in town shortly after 9 a.m. Got the opportunity to meet up with a group of old high school and college friends before heading into the stadium. Watched the team get the job done in an overall solid noon game atmosphere. After spending another few hours tailgating with friends after the game, I arrived back home in the upstate before 9 p.m. exhausted, but all smiles. 

I’ve heard horror stories of fans being treated poorly down there and I have some less-than-pleasant experiences myself but I must say I lucked up on Saturday. There was good mixture of fans in my section and while of course there was a little friendly trash-talk here and there, it was all in good fun.

It brought the biggest smile ever to my face to look around and see how Clemson fans had come out in big numbers and basically painted Williams-Brice Stadium Clemson Orange. I can’t say we had more fans or that it was even 50-50 but I can say there was absolutely no doubt more orange in the stands in Columbia that I can ever remember seeing since I’ve been watching and attending games. 

The best part of the day came when neither team was on the field. Both bands came together for a very moving halftime performance. Band members spelled out “SC STONG” to remember the Emmanuel Nine who were slain during the Wednesday night bible study shooting at Emmanuel AME in Charleston in June. Players from both teams wore logos on their helmets that honored the victims. It was truly a special moment that reminded everyone of what really matters at the end of the day.

I’m proud to say that I’ve sat in the stands from the national anthem to the final whistle and signing of the alma mater for the last eight straight Clemson-South Carolina games. I endured the heckling, cussing, middle fingers etc during my trips to Williams-Brice Stadium and stuck out every snap of the five game winning streak for the Gamecocks from 2009-2013. I was desperate for a win Saturday on the road. 

I was really hopeful and confident that I would finally get to enjoy a Clemson victory in Columbia and after this weekend I can finally say that I have. It wasn’t the prettiest work of art, but the boys pulled it out. Watching my team beat South Carolina in Gamecock country and improve to 12-0 was a lot of fun and a memory I won’t soon forget.  From the game’s outcome, perfect football weather and quality time with old friends and family, it was well worth the wait.

I’m looking forward to hitting the road again this weekend as Clemson looks to capture another ACC Championship when they meet that other Carolina team in Bank of America Stadium. The Tigers are looking like a team of destiny this year and I’m hoping we can keep this historic season alive.  Survive and advance, baby. Survive and advance. 

Chrisotpher Hall can be contacted at christopher.hall@rheaheraldnews.com