It wasn't when the clock struck 0:00 last Saturday evening that I felt that sick feeling in my gut - but rather, it was the converting of third-and-13 somewhere around the 13:00 mark of the fourth quarter when I knew this one wasn't going to go way of the Gamecocks.
For the first time in four years, those damn Dawgs from Athens were going to be celebrating at our expense.
Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda. A feeling not too familiar these past few seasons for Gamecock fans, but all old pals of those USC fans who have been cheering for this team beyond these recent high times.
This one sure stung.
"The one (the ONE) game we couldn't lose - we lost," read one of the texts I had sent to an old friend during those last few minutes of the contest.
For someone who damn near bit his fingernails down to nubs in the second quarter of the North Carolina game, that feeling that we would bounce back from a loss was very unfamiliar and a little off-putting.
My anxious fandom has become so bad...
Crowd: "HOW BAD IS IT?!"
My anxious fandom has become soooo bad that I'd almost rather go on a long run and wait to check the box score than watch the actual game.
I had told a friend earlier last week that in a twisted kind of way, I missed the days of 6-6 or 7-5 - where a 27-10 victory over North Carolina was met with a raucous celebration instead of a nine day nitpicking. I'm not shaking my finger at the collective fan base and local media, but rather pointing the finger directly at myself.
I've become so spoiled over recent years that a 21-15 victory over UNC in 2007 was much more of a victory in my eyes that this season's Tar Heel drubbing. That's basically a microcosm of the transformation my Gamecock fandom has undergone. Gone are the days of excitement for the season and looking for that potential big win - they've been replaced by constant anxiety and waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Is it the burden of expectations? Or conditioning courtesy of seasons like 1998, 1999 and 2007 and games like at Florida in 2006 and home against Auburn in 2011?
I couldn't tell you which of the two is the main culprit, but I can tell you that I miss the days of a win being met with a high five instead of a brow wipe. Again, I'm talking solely about myself here.
Now, don't get me wrong - I'm certainly not happy we couldn't take home the W last weekend. But when you listen to the UGA fan crying from a loss to Clemson in Week 1 and instead of laugh, you shrug and empathize with him - it becomes evident that you've lost your smile.
And that's exactly where I found myself in the days leading up to Saturday's contest in Athens and in the days before most big games in recent years - filled with trepidation and angst more than enthusiasm.
As an Atlanta native, I wanted the win Saturday more than anything. Nobody loves sweet schadenfreude like myself and I couldn't wait to send Aaron Murray to the third round of the NFL Draft (loljk, UGA fans) without ever getting a victory over SC. Alas.
Following the final score, I looked at the schedule. Am a blind homer for thinking we have a great shot at winning out? Maybe. Am I being overly optimistic in seeing two losses for UGA in the LSU, Mizzou, Tennessee, Auburn and Florida slate? Probably.
But one need only look at UGA's 2011 and 2012 campaigns to see what kind of wake up call and rallying point an early season loss to a division rival can become. And, to be honest, it's that aforementioned over confidence and blind positivity that I've truly missed in the last few years.
Gone is the dread in the days leading up to a conference game. It's Thursday and I don't have ONE hangnail. That pre game trepidation has since been replaced by pure excitement and anticipation for Saturday's Vandy game.
Will I be pacing back and forth, shaking my fist at the play calling come halftime this weekend? Possibly.
But for the time being, that other shoe has already dropped and I seem to be quite okay with it.