The first in what we plan to be a weekly series of retrospectives on particularly enjoyable or important moments in the history of South Carolina football. First up - the 2000 Georgia game.
The 1999 season is not one remembered fondly by Gamecock fans (and for those who drank their way through the sadness, it's one not remembered much at all). South Carolina faced a bad combination - a young, untalented team going through a transition to a new coaching staff without an easy win on the schedule. In the days of the 11-game schedule, South Carolina decided to head to Raleigh for a game against N.C. State (played in a monsoon and lost 10-0 in the opener to the Holtz Era), and hosted a very good East Carolina team quarterbacked by David Garrard to go along with the Clemson game. With Vanderbilt and Kentucky having strong (by their standards) seasons, going 5-6 and 6-6 respectively, the Gamecocks didn't have an easy win on the schedule, and while they were a bad team, they certainly weren't 0-11 bad.
So expectations were naturally low coming into the 2000 season. Carolna won a game it was expected to win to start the year, blowing out New Mexico State in a game dominated by the Gamecock defense that held the Aggies under 200 yards. So we knew the team could likely win more than the one game they'd won over the last two seasons. But this was a top-ten Georgia team quarterbacked by Heisman trophy candidate Quincy Carter. Surely we couldn't...
Looking back, it's hardly a surprise the South Carolina Gamecock defense played so dominantly throughout that magical 2000 season. Future NFL players CB Sheldon Brown (a junior), CB Dunta Robinson (a freshman), CB Andre Goodman (a junior), LB Kalimba Edwards (a junior), DT Langston Moore (a freshman), DT Cleveland Pinkney (a senior), DT John Stamper (a junior), and DT Cecil Caldwell (a senior) played on that team. Quincy was walking into a buzzsaw. But he - and most everyone in attendance and watching on ESPN - had no idea.
Carolina's defense never gave the Bulldogs a chance. Georgia compiled just 9 first downs over the course of the game, gaining 202 yards on 52 plays (3.88 yards/play) and turning the ball over 5 times. That allowed a somewhat anemic Gamecock offense to put together 287 yards on 71 plays (a putrid 4.04 yards/play) enough opportunities to ultimately break through with three Derek Watson touchdown runs giving the Gamecocks the 21-10 victory.
South Carolina would go on to put together a fine 8-4 season, capped with a 31-7 demolition of Ohio State in the Outback Bowl. It's a season fondly remembered by many as the one that finally took Carolina out of the wildnerness and into the light of competitiveness.
Coming out of a decade where they went 41-67-3 (a 38% winning percentage), it sent the Gamecocks towards the 2000s, a decade where they would spend most seasons around the .500 mark, ultimately compilng a 68-65 record from 2000-2009 (a 51% winning percentage). After never exceeding 7 wins throughout the 90s and putting together just two winning seasons, South Carolina put together an 8-win season in 2000 followed by a 9-win season in 2001. Though they took a step back from 2002-2004, they finished the decade with 3 seasons with 8 wins or more, and another 3 where they hit the 7-win mark. That decade-long plateau laid the groundwork for the surge that took place in the 10s, where they are 42-11 (a 79% winning percentage).
Do you remember the 2000 Georgia game? What were your thoughts at the time? How do you look back on it?