As a South Carolina football fan you’re used to dealing with the ebbs-and-flows that come with following the Gamecocks — those ebbs and flows being disappointment and sheer absurdity.
There isn’t much normal about the history of this program. The Gamecocks are less than 20 games over .500 all-time going back to 1892, yet every once in a while you’ll stumble across something like the “600 Club” (600 yards rushing, passing and receiving for one’s career) and find Syvelle Newton as one of the four members. South Carolina’s lone conferences title belongs in the ACC back in 1969 but all four program wins over top-five teams came after 2009.
Essentially, there isn’t a whole lot of consistency here. You can insert a joke about the football program being consistently mediocre, but from a fan’s perspective I don’t know what to expect year-to-year or even game-to-game. Going into last week’s Arkansas game all the metrics said the Razorbacks were a bad match up for South Carolina, but the Gamecocks won going away 48-23.
In 2007 the team started the season 6-1, was ranked as high as No. 6 in the country but finished 6-6. In 2014 South Carolina started the season ranked No. 9 and finished 7-6. The flux of success and failure have become a normal thing for Gamecocks fans, so it’s safe to say we don’t know what to expect.
However, for me personally I have come to expect one consistency when it comes to being a Gamecock fan. That one consistency is the doom and gloom that comes with the Tennessee match up every season.
2016’s 24-21 result was probably the happiest Gamecock fans have been about a Tennessee game since their first SEC match up in 1992 when South Carolina upset the Vols 24-23. Every match up in between has been sad, even the wins for South Carolina.
When you look back on the 1992 game it still doesn’t make any sense. South Carolina started that season 0-5 and beat a then 7-2, No. 16 ranked Tennessee. SC would finish the season 5-6 with two wins over top-20 teams. Like I said, this program is weird.
Following that game Tennessee beat South Carolina 12 years in a row — six times by double-digits. When Lou Holtz came through those deficits grew smaller, but not even he could vanquish Tennessee during his six-year tenure.
It wasn’t until Tennessee’s ultimate nemisis, Stephen Orr Spurrier, took over the South Carolina job that the results started to turn in the Gamecocks favor. Even though Spurrier went an even 5-5 against Tennessee, only a couple of those wins were something to walk away proud of.
2008 being one of those, when South Carolina thumped a lowly Tennessee team 27-6 in what would be Phillip Fulmer’s final season. That win would catapult South Carolina to a 7-3 record, only to see eventual national champion Florida cave the Gamecocks head in 56-6 the following week. South Carolina would finish up the season losing to Clemson 31-14 led by interim coach Dabo Swinney and then being beat 31-10 by Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
As we’ll continue to emphasize throughout this piece, South Carolina doesn’t know how to have a normal football season.
But scattered in that ten year span of Spurrier there are many heartbreaks associated with Tennessee. This is where I’ve developed PTSD: Pre-Tennessee Stress Disorder. Every week before the Tennessee game I get the feeling of dread and you’re about to find out why.
2005: 4-3 South Carolina went to No. 23 Tennessee and engaged in a battle with the intensity of two middle-aged men tying to bludgeon each other with pool noodles. The Gamecocks turned the ball over three times, but because Erik Ainge and Rick Clausen couldn’t combine for 120 yards passing on 32 throws South Carolina was able squeak a field goal by with 2:45 left in the game to win 16-15.
2006: No. 8 Tennessee visited South Carolina with eyes set on the SEC championship. After falling down 14-0, South Carolina would come back to lead 17-14 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Vols would match those 17 points and survive a late comeback attempt by SC to win 31-24. The Gamecocks would throw three interceptions in the game, ultimately making the difference in what could have been a top-10 upset.
2007: Fresh off a historically embarrassing loss to Vanderbilt as the No. 6 team in the country, South Carolina looked to rebound against a 5-2 Tennessee team in Knoxville. UT would come out to a 21-0 halftime lead only to surrender it right back in the second half. The game would go to overtime tied 24-24, where future NFL kicker Ryan Succop missed a 41-yard field goal to give Tennessee the win. SC committed four turnovers in this game, once again deciding another close UT match up.
Ugh... that kick still stings to this very day.
2009: 6-2 South Carolina finally looked like they would make the top-25 breakthrough under Steve Spurrier. Visiting 3-4 Tennessee, South Carolina did not perform like the No. 21 ranking that had been bestowed upon them. Instead the Gamecocks would commit four turnovers and lose 31-13 to knock them out of the top-25 for good. South Carolina would finish the season 7-6.
2010: No. 20 South Carolina would host a lowly 2-5 Tennessee team in their first season under Derek Dooley. Even with how bad Tennessee was that season, Tyler Bray still found a way to tie the game at 24 all in the fourth quarter. But thanks to the wheeling and dealing styles of Stephen Garcia South Carolina would score twice to put enough distance between the sides for a 38-24 win.
2011: This was without a doubt the least aesthetically pleasing SC-UT game of the past ten seasons. South Carolina’s offense looked utterly lost in their first game without Marcus Lattimore, but a rock-solid defense put the clamps on Bray and Matt Simms to strave off the Vols 14-3. Not a win fans felt great about going forward and those feelings were quickly validated when SC was dismantled by No. 7 Arkansas 44-28 the following week.
2012: This 38-35 win proved out to be an exciting game where No. 13 South Carolina would outlast an offensively potent Tennessee team. Nothing else to see here right?
Wait, what’s that? Marcus Lattimore’s South Carolina career ended in this game on one of the most horrific leg injuries in recorded football history? Nah, I don’t remember that. Moving on....
2013: No. 11 South Carolina went to Knoxville an SEC East favorite — surely this would be the year the Gamecocks made it back to the SEC Championship game with such a talented roster and a quarterback playing with lights out efficiency.
Nope. Connor Shaw threw his only interception of the year in a 7-for-21 passing performance. Tennessee would kick a 19-yard field goal as time expired, set up by this Marquez North catch that will haunt Gamecock fan’s dreams forever.
2014: Eight games into the 2014 season South Carolina was well aware their defense was no good — forcing poor Dylan Thompson to throw them out of trouble every game. In this contest South Carolina appeared to have a comfortable 42-28 lead with less than five minutes to go, but the Josh Dobbs led Vols would convert a pair of 75 yard drives into touchdowns to tie the game at 42.
Tennessee would kick a field goal in overtime, leading to South Carolina being sacked out of realistic field goal range. So, this is how South Carolina lost the game.
Wait a minute... South Carolina losing to Tennessee on a missed field goal in overtime? When has that happened before?
2015: Two weeks following the resignation of Steve Spurrier, I knew South Carolina was in for a nightmarish season going the rest of the way. So you can understand my jubilance when SC made a comeback down 17-3 to only trail Tennessee 27-24 and were driving down the field with a minute left.
Could South Carolina actually pull off this upset? YES! JERRELL ADAMS HAS THE BALL GO JERRELL GO!
I hope now you’ve digested that unpleasant history lesson you understand my condition. PTSD, Pre-Tennessee Stress Disorder, is a condition that doesn’t just plague me -- but many other South Carolina fans as well. It’s a disease that plagues man of us and has been developed by having to play Tennessee over and over for the past 26 years.
Is there a cure? Oddly enough it might be Will Muschamp himself. Muschamp didn’t do much of merit at Florida, but one thing he always did was beat Tennessee — a perfect 4-0 from 2011-2014. So far he’s a perfect 1-0 at South Carolina — perhaps he can finally what cures our PTSD for the time being.
Until then, I ask those of you not affected by Pre-Tennessee Stress Disorder to spread awareness and better understand what happens to Gamecock fans come October. Thanks for reading friends.