No. 2 Clemson and Georgia Southern got a sunny sky, mild breezes and plenty of tailgaters for the only major conference football game being played Saturday in the Carolinas and Virginia while Florence, now a tropical storm, dumped dangerous amounts of rain elsewhere across the region.
Clemson officials moved up the start time to noon from 3:30 p.m. because forecasts called for a more significant impact from Florence to occur Saturday night and Sunday.
Around Memorial Stadium, it looked like a typical football atmosphere of orange-clad fans and tailgate tents all over. Not everything was the same, however, with temperatures in the 80s and light breezes sweeping the campus, which is about 250 miles from the coast.
“If this were a normal September game, it would be 90 degrees and 100 percent humidity, so this is great,” Steve Jones, a fan from Greenville, said as he set up his tailgate station.
Every other major school in the three-state region called off or relocated games earlier in the week as Florence, once a Category 4 monster, churned in the Atlantic Ocean.
More than 2 feet of rain already had fallen in places, and the drenching continued as Florence, a hurricane-turned-tropical storm, practically parked itself over the Carolinas. Forecasters said the torrents could continue for days, touching off disastrous flooding. At least four people have died, and authorities fear the toll will go higher.
No. 13 Virginia Tech canceled its home game with East Carolina. Virginia’s home game with Ohio was moved to Nashville, Tennessee. North Carolina and North Carolina State called off contests.
Clemson’s in-state rival, South Carolina, canceled its Saturday night game with Marshall.
East Carolina relocated its team to Florida, worried that potential flooding near its Greenville, North Carolina, campus would keep it from practicing or leaving for next week’s game at South Florida in Tampa.
Clemson urged fans to use patience getting to the game because traffic security would be handled mainly by local authorities instead of state troopers. The South Carolina Highway Patrol sent just 16 troopers, whereas it normally deploys 100 to 110, on game days.
Citing a high wind advisory for later in the day, Clemson asked fans to take down tailgate tents that could blow free before entering the stadium and to clear the parking lots within two hours of game’s end.
Warren Herndon of Lexington, South Carolina, is a season ticket holder who was concerned the storm might affect the game. He’s also got property in Garden City near Myrtle Beach that he’s worried might be damaged by Florence. “There’s just so little you can do,” he said.
Keyanna Snipe, the mother of Clemson starting left guard John Simpson, said her son worried all week about how his family would fare down near the coast in North Charleston. Snipe finally gave into her son’s plea to leave early and she made it to Clemson on Thursday. “He was so happy and relieved,” Snipe said.
Tennessee offered free tickets to its game with UTEP to people from evacuated areas of the Carolinas.
Ricky Hughes of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and his wife, Sheba, took advantage.
“Believe it or not, I’ve always wanted to come here,” said Hughes, who wore a Coastal Carolina T-shirt and a Clemson ball cap. “I know it’s a nice and neat stadium.”
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
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