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South Carolina Gamecocks: Storm the Field!

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The Wildcats rushed the field after beating us two Saturdays ago. Did they push the bounds of decorum? Maybe a bit - not that I care so much. Nevertheless, it got me thinking about the subject.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Rushing the field - one of the most iconic scenes in college sports - should probably be reserved for something a bit more glorious than notching a second all-time program victory against the HBC.  Big Blue Nation may love to loathe Steve Spurrier but the Gamecocks were unranked, on a downswing and only a slight favorite.  That shouldn't be the stuff field-storming is made of, but then our Kentucky friends are an exuberant bunch and we can forgive them for get excited about 21 unanswered 4th quarter points.  This time.

Still, whenever fans spill out of the stands and onto the gridiron (or the hard court or the diamond) to celebrate a win, it makes for incredible TV and is even more electric in person. Highly frowned upon by conference administrators, university officials and humorless rent-a-cops - and extremely dangerous in the context of football when coupled with tearing down goalposts -  storming the field is simultaneously a riotous act of rebellion and spontaneous demonstration of love for your team.

When you think about it, rushing the field/court breaks the 'wall' of separation between fan and field.  It is by its very nature both transient and unforgettable.  Some could even argue it is one of the most sincere compliments you can pay an opponent (or an opposing coach, as Wildcat partisans could say vis-à-vis Coach Spurrier).

So who else in recent memory has paid us the courtesy of rushing the field or court?   And when have we done it?  I have given the last five-six times for each I can remember, and I've run them by a few old Gamecocks.  I wish I could say I had a comprehensive list, but memory starts to fade when one hits 40+, and I haven't been able to make all the games - as much as I would like.  If anyone sees a major error or omission ... or has a memory of having rushed the field or seen it done, please leave a comment!

BY OPPONENTS

@ Elon            Basketball    2011

I need a ruling from ChickenHoops if our 58-53 loss to Elon constitutes the low-water mark of Gamecock roundball - but if it wasn't rock-bottom it sure was damn close.  Why Darrin Horn thought it would be a good idea for USC to be the first "major" program to visit the Phoenix must remain an inscrutable mystery.  How we lost is an even bigger riddle.   Sure, we would go on to a meager 10-21 (2-14) record in Horn's final year - but it was a big deal to the Elon fans who stormed the court.  No, that's actual video not an outtake from Hoosiers.

@ Kentucky    Football        2010

The Wildcats under rookie head coach Joker Phillips had a lot more cause to rush the field at Commonwealth Stadium in 2010 than the UK folks two weeks ago. You will remember the '10 game was when Mike Hartline threw up a duck to an uncovered Randall Cobb for the go-ahead score on 4th and 7 with 1:15 left in the game- and Stephen Garcia drove the Cocks down the 'Cats' 20 only to throw an INT with :11 left on the clock.  The Gamecocks were ranked # 10 and had just beaten # 1 Alabama the week before, while UK had just had their hearts broken by Auburn the prior Saturday.   Remembered as Randall got loose, the Wildcats broke a 17 game losing streak to the HBC and celebrated in grand style. The Cocks would manage to backdoor our way into the SECCG - only to lose to Cam Newton's Auburn Tigers and then the Peach Bowl to FSU.  The Cats would drop 4 of their next 6 and finish 6-7.

@ Clemson     Football        2002

Clemson has a tradition of allowing fans onto the field after games, and a lot of Gamecocks like to mock that the Tigs will storm the field after any win - good, bad or indifferent (e.g., this past weekend).  Like all things, it's all in the context - you can tell when the Orange-clad faithful are really rushing the field as opposed to trying to get a photo with one of the players for their kids. Such was the case in 2002 when we traveled up to Death Valley.  It hadn't been a banner year for either of the Palmetto State heavweights - Clemson was 6-5 and Carolina 5-6 entering the game (with USC on 4 game skid). We were ahead 20-13 going into the 4th quarter when the Tigers, led by Charlie Whitehurst, scored 14 unanswered in the final frame to win 27-20 - avenging the 2001 loss at Williams-Brice and depriving us of a bowl game.  I'm not sure it was worth tearing down the goalposts by the Tiger fans, but it was the 100th game in the series so I guess they had that going for them.   Unfortunately, there were some injuries when the posts came down; after another dangerous teardown in '03 against FSU, Clemson installed hydraulic, collapsible goalposts in 2004 (around that time, we did, too, at least for the goal in front of the student section).

@ Georgia      Basketball   1997

The 1996-1997 Gamecock hoops team was one of the best in school history but you would not have known it at first after a shaky 5-4 record in OOC play.   Losses to VIrginia, North Carolina and Clemson were painful enough, but we also dropped to UNC-A and Charleston Southern that December, too.  However, we came back strong after the New Year, and rattled off 11 straight SEC wins.  We were ranked # 12 on February 12, 1997 and visiting Athens to take on the Dawgs for the second time.  For the life of me I cannot find a recap, but UGA sniped us 77-74 and I vividly remember that the Athenians stormed the court at Stegeman - temporarily forgetting the party-line that USC is never, and can never, be a rival of the Bulldogs.   It was a nice compliment.  The Gamecocks would win the SEC regular season title with a 15-1 record but bowed to UGA in the second round of the SEC Tourney.  Still we had garnered a # 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament before suffering the ignomy of losing to #15 seed Coppin State.

@ Clemson     Football       1980

Traveling up to Death Valley to face Danny Ford's 5-5 Tigers, the Gamecocks under Head Coach Jim Carlen were # 14 in the country with an 8-2 record - with losses on the road to Southern Cal and a heartbreaking 10-13 defeat at UGA when George Rogers fumbled trying to go in the endzone at the end of the game.  Paced by Rogers, we had hoped to win back-to-back against the Tigs for the first time since 68-'70.  Alas, Danny broke out the famed all Orange uniforms for the first time and we got shellacked 27-6 - causing the the Tiger faithful to storm the field.   We would go on to get blown out by Pitt in the Gartor Bowl and UGA would win a national championship; the Tigers would turn the trick in 1981.

BY USC

v. Kentucky      Basketball         2010 & 2014

The highlight of the Darrin Horn era, we improbably snapped a three-game SEC losing streak to beat # 1 Kentucky at the Colonial Life Arena 68-62 in 2010 - our first victory over an AP number 1 hoops opponent.   Yes, we had swept the Cats in 2009, but no one expected a miracle like this.  The post-game celebration is here.  [Update].  As Hoops and Kaci point out, we rushed the Court again last season when we won 72-67 over UK in 2014 - made more memorable for USC President Dr. Harris Pastides joining in the fun - "Once I realized I was paying [the fine] anyway, I ran down … I enjoyed every dollar," he said]. How odd that USC rushing the hardwood against UK is mirrored by them returning the favor against us on the gridiron.

v.  Alabama      Football            2001

It was a season to forget for the Alabama Crimson Tide, who would finish 7-5 (4-4) in Dennis Franchione's first season in Tuscaloosa.  Sure, we were 6.5 pt. favorites and ranked # 15 in the country, but we had never beaten Bama in our history and were losing 36-24 with 9:00 to play in the 4th.  In one of our greatest come-from-behind wins on the gridiron, Phil Petty and Derek Watson rallied the Cocks for two TD's in the final 6:30.  Watson punched one in on the ground, and after the beleaguered "D" made a heroic stop, Petty found Sr.TE Rod Trafford - Rod's only reception of the season, and only career TD catch - with 2:18 to seal a USC 37 Bama 36 victory.  Moments later, the students stormed the field in celebration and tore down the goalposts (go to 1:41).  We took a lot of grief nationally (here is one example) for the third goalpost tear-down in two yers, and Coach Holtz had to tell us to knock it off with the goalposts. But nobody wearing Garnet and Black cared that day. We would go on to beat Ohio State for the second consecutive time in the Outback Bowl to fuel a 9-3 (6-3) season and a final AP Poll ranking at #13.  To date, the '01 Bama victory would be the last time we would truly storm the football field and tear down the goalposts.

v.  N.M. State & UGA    Football            2000

We ended the nation's-worst CFB losing streak (21 games) by trouncing New Mexico State 31-0 on September 2, 2000 - and promptly tore down the goalposts. Then a student-journalist at Tennessee, Travis Haney said our celebration over NMSU seemed "semi-ludicrous".  But when we picked Quincy Carter 5 times to defeat the #10 Georgia Bulldogs to win 21-10, Haney graciously allowed that "the Cock fans had a right to bring down the posts."  I haven't been able to find video anywhere (see :37 here ), but the boys at LOHD remembered the 2000 season here - which also included "The Fade".

v. Cincinnati     Basketball         1998

Ranked # 13, Eddie Fogler's Gamecocks trailed Bob Huggins' # 18 Bearcats by as much as 23 points in the second-half before we clawed back to within 65-64 with :04 remaining - including forcing Cincy into 4 turnovers in the final 69 seconds of play.  In one of the miracle plays in Gamecock history, Antonio Allen picked up a loose ball near the top of the arc and, a millisecond before time expired, let a 3 pointer fly to seal a come-back win for the ages - 67-65.  We trailed for the entire 40:00 of regulation - Allen's shot drew net after the buzzer sounded.  Bedlam followed.

v.  Clemson      Football             1987

When the Tigs visited the Gamecocks in 1987 for only the second nationally televised game in the series, we had not beaten the Tigers at Columbia since 1979.   Under Danny Ford, the Orange & White were 9-1 and ranked # 8; we were 7-2 under Coach Joe Morrison and ranked # 12.  In one of our greatest wins ever over the Paw, we out-gained CU 302 yards to 166 to win 29-10.  The game is best remembered for the mocking "Rod-ney, Rod-ney" chant that serenaded Clemmy QB Rodney Williams at the end of the game, who we picked 3 times. In celebration, we stormed the field and tore down the posts (the video gives only a little taste of the celebration). Alas, LSU would whomp us in the Gator Bowl 30-13, keeping the bowl-monkey on our backs for seven more seasons.

Some Notes

According to this source, the first time goal posts were torn down in the Palmetto State was way back in 1927 when Clemson broke a three-game losing streak to the Gamecocks.

There were a ton of folks on the field after our 2010 victory over # 1 Alabama, but tight (some might say over-zealous) security held the students back - so I am not counting it as a true storm-the-field, though if we were ever entitled to it, this win would certainly count.

As far as I can tell, the Midshipman did not storm the field in 1984 when they defeated # 2 USC at Annapolis - talk about discipline.