COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Tavien Feaster has plenty experience in the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry, just not with this perspective.
Feaster won two national titles as backup runner for the third-ranked Tigers (11-0; No. 3 College Football Payoff) the previous three years. But locked into reserve with Travis Etienne the starrer, Feaster chose to graduate and finish his college career at Clemson’s fiercest rival in South Carolina (4-7).
When Feaster takes the field Saturday, he will be just third player so suit up for both sides in the Palmetto State’s most important sporting contest.
Feaster and the Gamecocks had hoped for a stronger season. However, they’ve been eliminated from reaching a fourth consecutive bowl and are banking on pulling another huge surprise — South Carolina topped then-No. 3 Georgia 20-17 in double overtime last month — in the season finale.
Feaster has no regrets, comfortable with his decision and how he played this fall. Feaster leads South Carolina with 625 yards and five rushing TDs
“I feel like I performed well this season. All I did was gave it my best,” Feaster said.
He and the Gamecocks would like one last stellar effort to end Clemson’s five-game series win streak. It’s not personal with his former teammates and friends, said Feaster, just business.
“I spent majority of my career there. We still keep in touch. I wish them well on the season,” Feaster said. “No hatred toward those guys. Just had to do the best thing for me.”
Feaster has continued counseling Etienne, just like he did when the two were teammates in 2017 and 2018.
The two talked last week, Etienne said, catching up and answering whatever questions Clemson’s junior tailback had about the future.
“Before and after the game we’re brothers,” Etienne said. “But during the game we are going to be rivals.”
Some other things to watch when No. 3 Clemson plays at South Carolina:
Clemson is seeking to extend its program record with its 27th straight win and second consecutive 12-0 regular season, a first in Tigers history. A sixth straight win over South Carolina would be its longest run of rivalry success since seven in a row from 1934-40.
South Carolina coach is seemingly staying put after his first losing season in four years. The Gamecocks were beset with injuries and very much underachieved with second-half collapses in losses to North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee. Still, new university president Robert Caslen put out a statement last week saying that Muschamp would be the team’s coach next season and “for seasons to come.”
One Clemson pre-game ritual has wrankled some South Carolina fans when it occurs in front of them at their stadium. The Tigers have generally locked arms during warmups in a straight line from sideline to sideline and walk forward as one to the end zone.
Some believe that provokes a few Gamecock fans to toss things on the field, as has happened in past rivalry games in Columbia. But Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said the exercise unifies his players and is something they’ve done at every stadium for 17 years.
“It’s what we do and I don’t think anybody should be distracted by how a team warms up, how a team gets themselves ready to play a game,” Swinney said.
Clemson tailback Travis Etienne, the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, is having himself a run the past six games. He has gained 873 yards on 86 carries (10.2 yards a rush) and nine touchdowns. His 1,335 yards this season rank seventh in the country.
South Carolina receiver Bryan Edwards will look to gain the school’s touchdown catch record in his final time with the Gamecocks.
The senior already holds career marks for receptions and receiving yards. He’s also caught a pass in 48 straight games, another program best. He’s one behind the all-time TD record of 23 shared by a pair of NFL standouts in Alshon Jeffery and Sidney Rice.