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Clemson’s players eager to ‘set the record straight’ in Palmetto Bowl

Clemson+center+Will+Putnam+%2856%29+has+played+South+Carolina+three+times+in+his+career+since+he+arrived+at+Clemson+in+2019.
Ashleigh Snyder
Clemson center Will Putnam (56) has played South Carolina three times in his career since he arrived at Clemson in 2019.

Clemson players and coaches have always preached the idea of the next upcoming game being the most important, but this week is a little different.

Before falling to the Gamecocks 31-30 last November, the Tigers had won seven straight rivalry games against South Carolina dating back to 2014. But despite that win streak and a 72-43-4 all-time record versus the in-state rival, the Gamecocks hold claim to the Palmetto Trophy and have bragging rights over Clemson.

“It depends on who won that last game, and we lost the last one. That’s very well known,” center Will Putnam said on Monday. “They made it known from just how that whole game went down. And that’s why we’re really just looking forward to this opportunity to kind of set the record straight.”

Set to play in his final Palmetto Bowl, fifth-year defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro echoed Putnam’s sentiment.

“We didn’t get the job done last year, so my goal is to get the job done this year with me and my teammates and bring the Palmetto Trophy back home to Clemson,” Orhorhoro said.

Quarterback Cade Klubnik didn’t play in last year’s Palmetto Bowl and has never played in Columbia, but the sophomore signal-caller is expecting a loud crowd on Saturday.

“Obviously, it’s one of the greatest atmospheres in college football,” Klubnik said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere. They’ve got great fans. I’m excited to get down there. We love playing on the road. It’s going to be a fun game for sure and a lot of energy.”

Klubnik and the Tigers’ offense have played well as of late, helping propel Clemson to its current three-game win streak.

Playing a huge role in that win streak has been running back Phil Mafah, who has rushed for 122 yards per game over the Tigers’ last three contests.

But bringing the Palmetto Trophy back to Clemson comes with a challenge, as the Tigers have to travel to Williams-Brice Stadium for this year’s matchup. And even though Clemson is favored, with the Gamecocks needing a win to become bowl-eligible, both teams will bring their all.

“Obviously, it’s a huge rivalry, and as coach Swinney likes to say, you can throw records out the window,” Mafah said. “It’s really just about what team comes to play mentally prepared and has the best preparation throughout the week.”

Mafah said that before he came to Clemson, he wasn’t really aware of the significance of the rivalry between Clemson and South Carolina. But like all players who make their way to Upstate South Carolina, that significance develops quickly.

Tristan Leigh, a Virginia native, grew up watching Virginia and Virginia Tech battle it out in their rivalry game. Once he came to Clemson in 2021, however, the redshirt sophomore offensive lineman realized how much the fans and community care about defeating South Carolina.

“Moving here, I didn’t understand it at first, like the magnitude of it. But you get into the culture of where you’re at, and you see how it means a lot to a lot of people,” Leigh said. “And honestly, I think that’s great because we’re in a position to play for something bigger than ourselves. It’s a big game in the state of South Carolina. We can make a lot of people happy in this state on Saturday.”

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Justin Robertson, Associate Editor
Ashleigh Snyder, Photo Editor
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