Who will step up in this year’s Clemson-Carolina game?

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Photo by Jack Lukow

When it comes to the annual Clemson-Carolina game, few football fans in the Palmetto State actually remember the score. But everybody knows who won. It’s practically a requirement for any upstanding Sandlapper.

Over the years, there has been no shortage of players who’ve stepped up big in the Clemson-Carolina game. And you can expect that to happen again this year. But who will it be as the two in-state rivals face off Nov. 25 for their 115th meeting?

As the state looks forward to this year’s game, here’s a look back at some of the players who have stepped up big in the rivalry.

** Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., ESPN **

Steve Wadiak, USC, 1950

The 1950 Gamecocks were underdogs to an undefeated Clemson team. But running back Steve “The Cadillac” Wadiak ran for 256 yards and the Gamecocks played the Tigers to a 14-14 tie. Wadiak ended his career as USC’s all-time leading rusher with 2,878 yards, a record that stood for nearly 30 years.

Jerry Butler, Clemson, 1977

Clemson blew a 24-0 lead and trailed 27-24 with less than three minutes to go, thanks to a shanked punt and a 40-yard touchdown pass from Ron Bass to Phillip Logan. But the Tigers marched down the field, and the drive culminated with “The Catch.” Butler made a diving backwards catch off a Steve Fuller pass with just 49 seconds left in the game, ending up in the end zone to give Clemson a 31-27 win.

Jeff Grantz, USC, 1975

USC quarterback Jeff Grantz was the star of the 1975 game, called by some as the best game played by the Gamecocks in the rivalry. South Carolina scored a touchdown on every offensive possession, including Grantz’s five touchdown passes. He also ran for 122 yards.

Mark Buchholz, Clemson, 2007

Clemson trailed the unranked Gamecocks 21-20 when the Tigers drove down the field in the final two minutes to set up kicker Mark Buchholz for a 35-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game. Buchholz nailed it.

Steve Taneyhill, USC, 1992

After the Gamecocks opened the 1992 season with five straight losses, freshman quarterback Steve Taneyhill led Carolina to a 5-6 record, including a 24-13 win over Clemson in Death Valley. The brash freshman mimicked hitting home runs after big plays and pretended to autograph the tiger paw at midfield after the game was over.

Rod Gardner, Clemson, 2000

Clemson receiver Rod Gardner made perhaps the biggest — but definitely the most controversial — catch of his collegiate career in the 2000 game. The Tigers, ranked 25th in the nation, trailed by two when quarterback Woody Danzler completed a 50-yard pass to Gardner, who battled USC defensive back Andre Goodman for position. The catch is known as “The Catch II” in Clemson and  “The Push-Off” in Columbia.

Mike Hold, USC, 1984

Carolina was 9-1 when they came into Death Valley in 1984, in the midst of the best season in school history. Clemson jumped out to a 21-3 lead and went into halftime up by 11. But the second half belonged to the Gamecocks, led by quarterback Mike Hold. Starting at their own 16, Hold led USC down the field and scored on a quarterback sneak with 54 seconds to play. Kicker Scott Hagler missed the extra point for the first time all season, but the Tigers had 12 men on the field. Hagler made good on his second chance, and Carolina had its first 10-win season.

Willie Underwood, Clemson, 1980

Willie Underwood picked off two passes in the 1980 rivalry game, returning them for a school-record 101 yards and one touchdown, leading Clemson to an upset victory over the 14th-ranked Gamecocks. Underwood had 17 tackles in the game and earned Sports Illustrated’s Player of the Week for his performance.

Brad Edwards, USC, 1987

USC was ranked 12th and Clemson eighth in 1987, the highest ranked meeting between the two schools in the rivalry’s history. USC held a 13-7 lead when All-American cornerback Brad Edwards returned an interception to seal the win.

Charlie Whitehurst, Clemson, 2003

Charlie Whitehurst tied a school record with four touchdown passes in Clemson’s 63-17 win over the Gamecocks in 2003. He was the first quarterback to go 4-0 in the rivalry.

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