Clemson fans can’t wait to finally bring rivals South Carolina back to Memorial Stadium.
The same goes for DJ Uiagalelei.
The Tigers’ starting quarterback was actually present the last time the Gamecocks came to Death Valley. It was 2018 and Uiagalelele’s first visit to Clemson for a home game while he was a recruit.
The team he would eventually sign a letter of intent for won a scoring affair by 56-35 in Trevor Lawrence’s freshman season. Six weeks later, the Tigers won the national title.
Uiagalelei was unable to face the Gamecocks at home in 2020 as the rivalry game was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The SEC played only conference games that season, ending a rivalry that had gone on for over 100 straight years.
Uiagalelei is thrilled to take part in Clemson’s (10-1) home version of that rivalry against South Carolina (7-4) on Saturday lunchtime.
“I’ve only heard stories, but I’m super excited,” Uiagalelei said. “I remember the last time. I came to visit and the home stadium rocked. It was a night game. But I’m really happy to play South Carolina here at home. It’s going to be incredible.”
Much of a player’s legacy is tied to what they do in these types of games, and the Clemson-South Carolina series is no different. Uiagalelei is a starter in the all-time 1-0 rivalry, and he could be the man to help the Tigers beat South Carolina for a series record for the eighth straight season with a win on Saturday.
He helped Clemson in a 30-0 shutout a year ago at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. Uiagalelei was the only 9-of-19 pass for 99 yards and one interception. He ran five times for 33 yards.
“Going to an away game, going there definitely opened it up and just the scale of the rivalry and what it means to a lot of people,” Uiagalelei said.
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The visiting Gamecocks will see a different version of the Uiagalelei. He was limited by a knee injury last year but has emerged as an effective runner in 2022. He led the Tigers in 87 rushing yards in the 40-10 win over Miami last week.
During the season, he completes 65.1 percent of his passes for 2,406 yards. Uiagalelei has thrown 21 touchdown passes and six interceptions in 335 attempts.
A California native, Uiagalelei grew up immersed in the USC-UCLA rivalry, but he goes into the game against South Carolina knowing how important it is that he and the Tigers play well.
“Here our rival has arrived,” said Uiagalelei. “I know it means a lot to a lot of people here in South Carolina, a lot of Clemson fans. So that means a lot to me. It means a lot to the team. So we need to be able to have our best week this week. We show our best. Keep working, keep grinding and get into the movie room, train great. Just treat it the same as any other week, but it definitely means a lot to us.”
This could also be his final chapter in the Tiger Gamecock lore. Uiagalelei is in his third year with Clemson and will graduate in December, but he reiterated he has yet to make any decisions about his future with the Tigers.
“I still haven’t decided, I have no idea,” said Uiagalelei. “I’m just playing through the season. At the end of the season whatever happens happens. But right now I’m just focused on the season, on South Carolina, and just one game at a time.”
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