When the question was asked earlier this month, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris was locked and loaded.
Asked if the countdown clocks around the Tiger football facilities have impacted the players, Morris responded that he would find out in “137 days.”
That number was correct.
The rivalry game (which is now 124 days away) has been on the mind of Morris for quite some time. After all, it was he who came up with the idea of the clocks after a visit to Ohio State. With South Carolina gunning for a sixth consecutive victory in the series, Morris wanted to put the regular-season finale on the minds of every single Tiger.
Here’s why it’s an awful idea.
For the record, this article was not written because I am “obsessed” with Clemson. It was written after I spoke with a relative who recently played golf with a group of four Gamecock fans and four Tiger fans. When the countdown clock was brought up, all eight had the same response.
It’s stupid.Both South Carolina and Clemson are at a point where their seasons do not depend on the outcome of the rivalry game. The Gamecocks are aiming for their fourth consecutive 11-win season, the Tigers are hoping for a third. Gone are the days of the mid-90’s, when both teams needed to win the game to clinch bowl berths. The rivalry should be viewed as a cherry on top of a great season, not the entire season itself.
If Clemson goes 5-7 this year with a win over South Carolina, will any Tiger fans consider it a successful season. Of course not. The rivalry game gains importance if both teams play well throughout the year. It has no bearing on conference races and, barring a spectacular season from either team, no impact on the national championship hunt.
And by the way, what will happen if Clemson loses the game this year? Will there be more tennis balls handed out to players?
Both teams have taken very different views towards the game over the past decade. When Steve Spurrier arrived at South Carolina, he deemphasized the Clemson game. After a rocky start against the Tigers, Spurrier has come around to the notion that it is a big contest, but it still means more to the fans than it does to him. The Head Ball Coach has publicly stated that he’d rather win the SEC than beat the Tigers.
During last year’s rivalry game, which South Carolina won 31-17, fans saw a brief window into how Chad Morris thinks. On the opening drive of the game, Clemson took the ball and gained 46 yards on their first six offensive snaps. Tajh Boyd was 5-of-5 and Roderick McDowell had gained 15 yards on his only carry. Then, with his offense clicking on all cylinders, Morris called a double pass and let wide receiver Sammy Watkins air one towards the end zone.
The decision to take the ball out of the hands of the best passer in ACC history and call a gadget play showed that Morris entered that game with a sense of desperation. Clemson, in his mind, needed to score in a big way to silence a raucous crowd at Williams-Brice. Would the Tigers have scored on that drive if Boyd and McDowell had been given the ball in that situation? It’s hard to say, but South Carolina had shown no signs of stopping the Tigers on that drive. But rather than letting his offense work, Morris went for the flashy play.
It was a move that reeked of desperation and immaturity, much like the clocks.
And if time runs out at Memorial Stadium in November and Clemson is left to deal with another loss to its in-state rival, the clock might start ticking on Morris’s time with the Tigers.