Originally created 11/17/99

Clemson's Young has lived the Tigers-Gamecocks rivalry



CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson center Kyle Young doesn't need a lecture or test to learn about the Tigers' rivalry with South Carolina -- he's lived it.

From almost the time he could pick up a football at his home in Clemson, Young was draped in Tiger talk. His grandfather, Ed McLendon, played on Clemson's Cotton Bowl team in 1939 and his brother Will was an offensive linemen with the Tigers from 1992-95.

Young's face lights up when he thinks to last season when, despite finishing 3-8, his Tigers dumped the Gamecocks 28-19.

"It makes the whole year go by a little easier," Young said Tuesday. "There's nothing that makes a season like beating them."

A victory this Saturday against winless South Carolina (0-10) would be even more special for the Tigers (5-5) because it would send them to a bowl a year after the program looked to be in shambles.

"It's a big game, but if it's the only one you win over a length of time, it will cost you," said Tommy Bowden, Clemson's first-year coach. 'The fact we've got a bowl game makes it that much more a battle."

Young is expert enough on the rivalry that he could teach one of the lectures South Carolina coach Lou Holtz is giving his players about the game's history this week.

Young saw his first game in person in 1986 -- a 21-21 tie -- and knows the last time Clemson lost at Williams-Brice -- 1987.

He has watched films of Jerry Butler's famous game-winning catch in 1977 -- 10 months before he was born -- that lifted Clemson to a 31-27 victory.

His favorite moment, Young says with no hesitation, came in 1988. A year earlier at Columbia, South Carolina whipped the Tigers 20-7 and the Gamecock crowd serenaded Clemson quarterback Rodney Williams with "Rodddd-neeey, Rodddd-neeey, Rodddd-neeey."

The next season, Williams led the Tigers to an Atlantic Coast Conference title and a 29-10 victory over South Carolina at Death Valley. This time, it was Clemson fans and Young in the stands, singing to their hero with the same chants they heard at Williams-Brice.

"We weren't doing it to make fun like they were," Young said. "It was more done in praise."

Someone always seems to be urging the coaching staff to spend a few minutes working on their South Carolina plans, Bowden said. But that's no different than the buildup he's seen for other rivalries while working as an assistant at Alabama, Auburn and Florida State.

"Most great rivalries you come out about 50-50," he said. "So if you play six, you better win four."

A loss makes the whole off-season drag. Just ask Young, who watched his brother, now a Clemson graduate assistant, grouse and hang his shoulders when his Tigers lost to the Gamecocks in 1992 and 1994.

"He always wore his emotions on his sleeve," Young said. "That was really hard for him to take."

Young hasn't had that problem as a player. He was a redshirt lineman in 1997 when Clemson won 47-21 at Williams-Brice. He started at center in last year's 28-19 victory at Death Valley.

It's a streak he can't wait to extend this week, and he doesn't seem to worry that Holtz might have the Gamecocks a little more motivated than their 0-10 record would suggest.

"I try not to pay attention to what goes on down there," Young said. "I've never really been a big fan."