In a sea of orange, Gamecock fans shared high fives and congratulations at Clemson’s Death Valley football stadium, said USC student Georgia Guest. (Photo courtesy of Georgia Guest)

For many University of South Carolina students and their families, the win over the Clemson Tigers in this year’s Palmetto Bowl was long overdue. 

The nine long years since the last time the Gamecocks beat the Tigers in 2013 had USC students and their families screaming and jumping — most watching the game from the comfort of home, some students said.

“My Poppy was just yelling at the TV every time USC made a play,” Madison Smart, a freshman nursing student at USC, said. “Now that I go here, my whole family just acts 10 times crazier about anything South Carolina does.”

Being a freshman, Smart has never experienced anything but a winning football team led by head coach Shane Beamer. But for seniors like mass communications student Lindsey McCarthy, the win over Clemson was bittersweet, she said. 

“I’m sad that it’s happening my senior year but better late than never,” McCarthy said. “I wish I was there.”

McCarthy isn’t the only one with FOMO. 

To watch the game in person, USC fans would have had to travel to Death Valley, in the Upstate, the weekend after Thanksgiving. Smart said she also wished she could have gone to the game in person, but she’s glad she got the chance to “huddle around the TV with my whole family.” 

“Even though I was home for break, my friends and I would just be constantly texting back and forth, bullying our Clemson friends every time we made a pass or scored,” Smart said. “Having a family that are big football fans helped me get over missing it in person. They made it fun.”

Watching the game at home gave freshman exercise science student Diego Weber a chance to personally experience the rivalry because his brother goes to Clemson. 

“We were both yelling, and every time a play happened, and (Clemson) scored or South Carolina scored, we were both going at each other’s necks,” Weber said. “It was definitely a surreal experience watching it on TV and just getting to rub it in my brother’s face.” 

Weber said he came to USC instead of Clemson because he “fell in love with the environment,  fell in love with the student body and everything.” Having a winning football team that beat his brother’s school was just the cherry on top.

“It was crazy beating Clemson after the Tennessee game — no one was expecting those back-to-back weeks of success,” Weber said. “Next year, we’re bound to make the playoffs.”

Even though it’s Smart’s first year on campus, she said she has “never experienced a winning team” because her high school football team would “always lose.” USC winning the Palmetto Bowl turned her into a football fan. 

“Now that I’m here, it’s more special to me,” Smart said. “I feel more into (football) because I go here and I have pride in the school.”

Georgia Guest, a senior pharmacy student, was one of the lucky students who got to watch the game in person. After Clemson beat USC her entire time on campus, she said she didn’t have her hopes up. 

“I kind of came into the game knowing we might lose like we lost for the last (seven) years, so I was definitely expecting us to lose,” Guest said. “In the last five minutes, when I realized we were about to win, it was really, really cool.”

Guest said after the time ran out and the score was 31-30, the Gamecock fans who attended the game celebrated despite being “surrounded by people in orange.” 

“All the Clemson fans were so sad,” Guest said. “There were a couple of Gamecock fans scattered throughout the stadium, so we would all see each other and high five.”

Guest said she could see the coaches and the players had worked hard to win.

“I know that we’ve definitely had struggles with (former head coach Will Muschamp), and now we have Coach Beamer, who I think really cares about our players and really wants to put in the work to make the team what it is,” Guest said. 

The Gamecocks’ win secured the team’s No. 19 spot in this year’s College Football Playoff rankings, the second time the team had made the list and its highest placement ever.

This year’s rivalry between USC and Clemson became personal for USC freshman Diego Weber, whose brother is a Clemson student. (Photo by Jade Crooks)