After last week’s discussion of the best Carolina games we've attended, we’re talking this week about the best games we weren’t at. Our friends TRC asked the question on Twitter: What’s your greatest Gamecock sports experience you did not attend in person?
Without a doubt, the men’s basketball team’s run to the Final Four this past season. As a native North Carolinian, college basketball has always been near and dear to my heart, and I’d never wanted to see anything more than USC having some March Madness magic for once. Needless to say, ending an NCAA tournament drought with a Final Four berth that featured wins over Duke and Florida was an experience that seemed like an overenthusiastic fever dream that couldn’t possibly be real -- except it was. I hope this means the Gamecock men are on the rise, but even if it takes a few seasons for them to get back to the tournament, what an unforgettable memory to tide us over.
Runners-up: Game 2 against UCLA in the 2010 College World Series; 2012 football vs. Georgia.
I'm going to with the Lady Gamecocks national title win over Mississippi State. I was lucky enough to cover some of their games for The Daily Gamecock, one of which was the defeat to Tennessee. The group took that loss very well with it being the first home defeat in a long time. They dropped a couple on the road at UCONN and Mizzou before winning all nine postseason games to capture the SEC and NCAA Tournament titles. They defeated the Bulldogs in both finals and it gave us months of Dawn Staley donning the “net-lace.”
I’ll go with the 2011 College World Series games against Florida. I had just graduated from USC and was still living in Columbia that summer, so it was great to be able to watch the games with my friends who were also still in town and see how excited the city got. As much fun as that was, though, I would’ve loved to feel the atmosphere in Omaha as TD Ameritrade Park hosted its first CWS and the Gamecocks won their second straight national title, especially since it was against a division rival.
Kody took mine: the Final Four run. Even to this day (like Kody said), I still can’t believe it happened. Back in February, I’d have given them no chance to make it (and I doubt many people had them getting that far), but it just shows that when a team gets hot and puts things together at a specific time, anything can happen. Is it the start of things to come? We’ll have to see.
For me, that'll be the 2013 Missouri football game. For starters, I had very low expectations going into this game considering South Carolina was fresh off laying a turd at Neyland Stadium the week prior. For two and a half quarters my expectations were matched by SC's play -- trailing Missouri 17-0 with all the offensive zeal of a sloth. I remember being on Twitter duty for Garnet Report and becoming ever more anxious watching my feed, yet never in doubt that SC was still in the game. Then in a shock decision, Steve Spurrier yanked Dylan Thompson for a banged-up Connor Shaw -- who even while his ligaments were held together by rubber bands and paper clips brought SC back to 17-17 by regulations end. Much like the game, my house started to wake up as our neighbors started popping into my living room to witness the could-be comeback. I'll never forget jumping so high in the air when Bruce Ellington caught that touchdown pass on 4th-and-15 in OT I landed lopsided and fell on my then-girlfriend, now-wife. I'm still shocked she didn't break a rib from my boney behind landing flat on her torso. I'll also never be able to get rid of the image of David Cloninger's tweet, who was just ahead of the broadcast, "My god he missed it" in reference to the Missouri kicker shanking the tying field goal to end their perfect record. People started pouring out of their houses onto Preston Street where I lived and chanting "U-S-C, Goooooo Cocks!". Someone brought a stereo outside and blasted Sandstorm for all to hear. It was without a doubt one of the most jubilant occasions of my student life at Carolina.
Every single event mentioned so far is great and makes my list, but I have the same answer as Katie: the 2011 College World Series Finals. When I answered that on Twitter, TRC made me pick a game and I went with Game 1. Obviously Game 2 was the one that ended with us lifting a trophy, but Game 1 against Florida is probably my favorite baseball game ever. Thinking about Carolina’s defensive play in that game still takes my breath away. It was unbelievably stressful to watch, but so much fun.