Remember When? 1988 Clemson-Carolina

"Roddddddneeeey! Roddddddneeeey!" It could be heard all through out Williams-Brice Stadium after South Carolina All-American safety Brad Edwards returned Rodney Williams' pass into the flats 40-yards for the game-clinching touchdown in the Gamecocks' 20-7 victory in 1987.

Flashback: Clemson vs. South Carolina
November 19, 1988
Tigers 29, Gamecocks 10


It was the worse day of the Columbia native's career at Clemson. He was intercepted three times that night and completed just 7 of 21 passes for 91 yards in the loss.

Having to live with that memory and hear about it for 365 days from his Columbia friends, Williams made it his personal goal in the 1988 game to stick it back to the Gamecocks and their fan base when the two teams met in front of 84,867 in Death Valley on November 19, 1988.

The Tigers, who were 8-2 and ranked 15th in the Associated Press top 20, already knew their bowl fate as they headed into the 86th annual meeting with South Carolina as ACC Champions, which included an automatic berth in the Citrus Bowl.

The Gamecocks were also 8-2 coming in, including a 23-10 win over Georgia which peaked USC at No. 7 nationally in the polls at the time. But South Carolina struggled after getting off to a 6-0 start, losing to Georgia Tech and Florida State by a combined score of 93-0.

Williams wasted little time establishing how the rainy afternoon would go when he guided Clemson on a long opening drive which was capped by a 47-yard Chris Gardocki field goal for a 3-0 lead.

USC responded with a drive of its own the first time it touched the ball as quarterback Todd Ellis – now the Gamecocks play-by-play man on the radio network – drove USC 61 yards to the Clemson 9. But running back Harold Green fumbled and the Tigers' Dexter Davis jumped on the loose ball.

A few plays later, Williams connected with Gary Cooper for a 40-yard gain and Gardocki booted a second field goal – this time from 31 yards – to give Clemson a 6-0 lead with 1:16 to play in the first quarter.

The Tigers extended their lead to 9-0 in the second quarter when Levon Kirkland recovered Ellis' fumble on the center-to-quarterback exchange and Gardocki knocked home a 38-yard field goal with 10:02 left in the first half.

After a South Carolina punt on its next possession, Williams directed an 11-play, 85-yard scoring drive for the game's first touchdown and a 16-0 Clemson lead. Running back Terry Allen capped the long drive with an 8-yard run with 2:49 to play in the second quarter.

The Gamecocks finally got things rolling before the end of the first half thanks in large part to a long kickoff return from George Rush, who took the ball down to the Tigers' 33. Four plays later, Ellis found Robert Brooks with a 20-yard scoring pass and USC was back in the game 16-7 with 1:31 to play in the opening half.

But the day belonged to Clemson as the Tiger defense continued to poor the pressure on Ellis in the second half, while holding the USC offense to 257 total yards. Ellis had a miserable day in what turned out to be his last Clemson-USC game – he suffered a season-ending injury early in the year in 1989 and was unable to play against the Tigers – passing for only 141 yards on 11 of 30 passing with one interception. He was also sacked twice by Clemson linebacker Jesse Hatcher and had two more fumbles.

Midway through the third quarter, Allen broke off a 20-yard run which setup Tracy Johnson's 1-yard plunge a few plays later. The Tigers missed the extra point, but still had a 22-7 lead with 4:56 left in the third.

Like a script written for a Hollywood movie, it was fitting that the last Clemson points of the day came from Williams, who kept the ball on an option keeper to the left and ran 7 yards untouched to make the score 29-7 with 10:44 to play. Just one year removed from his worst moment as a Clemson Tiger, the senior quarterback shinned on the same stage.

The Gamecocks added a 47-yard Colin Mackie field goal to make the final score 29-10, but in his final game at Death Valley, the day clearly belonged to Williams.

His stats were modest – 13 of 26 passing for 192 yards and five carries for 38 yards – but to the Clemson faithful his play was spectacular. And during the last five minutes of the game they let him know it by chanting – "Roddddddneeeey! Roddddddneeeey!"

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