Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei will lead the Tigers against South Carolina for the second time in his career on Saturday, and the junior signal-caller understands exactly what the rivalry means to many people.
Uiagalelei didn't mince words on the significance of the game when speaking to the media on Monday.
“Coach Swinney has always said it; it’s a game of its own, it’s a season of its own,” Uiagalelei said. “It’s a huge game. This is South Carolina, our rival right here. I know it means a lot to a lot of people in South Carolina and a lot to Clemson fans, so it means a lot to me. It means a lot to the team.”
Uiagalelei had his first start against the Gamecocks a season ago in Columbia, South Carolina, and the atmosphere of the game gave him a deeper understanding of the Palmetto Bowl.
“Going to an away game at South Carolina, it definitely opened (my eyes) up to the magnitude of the rivalry and how much it means to a lot of people,” Uiagalelei said. “Not only people in Clemson, but also South Carolina fans as well.”
The former five-star recruit completed 9 of 19 passes for 99 yards and one interception in the game last year. He also added 33 yards on the ground on five attempts.
Despite not having a great game, Uiagalelei and the Tigers were able to defeat South Carolina 30-0 last season for the seventh consecutive win against the Gamecocks.
While Uiagalelei has yet to play the Gamecocks at home, he added on Monday that he witnessed a rivalry game played in Death Valley on a recruiting visit.
“The stadium was rocking,” he said. “I’m super excited to be able to play South Carolina here at home. It will be unbelievable.”
When talking about the Gamecocks, Uiagalelei noted South Carolina and quarterback Spencer Rattler's impressive game against No. 5 Tennessee last week.
“I thought (Rattler) played a great game,” Uiagalelei said. “I thought, overall, South Carolina played a great game. They went out there and punched Tennessee in the mouth. They did an unbelievable job with that.”
Starting in all 11 of the Tigers' games this season, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound signal-caller has completed 65.3% of his passes for 2,406 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also is second on the team in rushing yards and touchdowns, with 494 and six, respectively.
While Clemson has had a run of success against South Carolina in recent years, Uiagalelei noted that he knows the Gamecocks will come ready to play.
“South Carolina, I think they always believe that they can win every single game,” he said. “I feel like that’s the type of program they are. It’s the type of players they have there, the type of coaching staff they have there.”
“For us, it’s going to be a great game,” he continued. “South Carolina is a great team with a great defense and great offense. We’ve got to be able to have a great week of practice, be able to be locked in and be ready for this game. It’s going to be a great game.”
Uiagalelei and Clemson know what is at stake this weekend against the Gamecocks, and the Tigers are preparing to put their best foot forward and continue their win streak against South Carolina.