While we put together a comprehensive list of Spurrier's Top 10 wins at USC, we wanted to take a closer look at the top five wins on that list. Sitting at #5 was the Connor Shaw led comeback over the Missouri Tigers in 2013, followed by the emotionally charged upset of the #4 Ole Miss Rebels in 2009, and checking in at #3 was the absolute demolition of the UGA Bulldogs in 2012. Next up? Arguably the most important win in Gamecock football. The cathartic win over the Evil Empire in today's era of college football. A day when our stars outshone those from Tuscaloosa, the Gamecocks took down Bama 35-21.
Quick Recap: As I sit here staring at my computer screen, I still can't believe this day happened. Not so much the fact that our guys were incapable of beating Alabama (obviously they were), but just the sheer fact that it was the Alabama Crimson Tide. The team in Crimson and White was supposed to be invulnerable. They are a football machine that crushes everything in their path, including the at-the-time #7 Florida Gators 31-6 on a nighttime CBS game. But our guys were not intimidated. Our guys, led by Steve Spurrier, said enough is enough. Enough of the losing to top ranked teams, enough of being a laughing stock. It was time to prove we could play with the big boys.
The game started off discouragingly enough. Alabama seemed to be well on their way to a strong opening touchdown drive. Ingram and Richardson were already revved up and smashing through our defense. The defense bent but would not yield, holding the Crimson Tide to a mere field goal.
After that, it was all Gamecocks. Before Alabama knew what hit them, Spurrier and Co., courtesy of three Stephen Garcia passing touchdowns, had a 21-9 lead at halftime. The second half, much like the first half, had a disheartening start. T.J. Johnson threw a fastball shotgun snap over Garcia's head and Garcia immediately threw it into the endzone for a safety. You could hear the collective "here we go again..." groan from the crowd. But the defense, once again, bent but did not break. I would be lying to you if I thought we were going to end up blowing it more than once in that second half. And I must say, I still think if the defense gives up anything more than a field goal in that situation, we probably don't recover. But with the lead suddenly cut to 21-14, Garcia and the offense embarked on a series of plays dubbed by some as the "The Drive." A 15-play, 82-yard drive that lasted 7:55 and end with an option pitch (no I am not kidding. Spurrier dialed up the Veer against Alabama) to Lattimore who plunged into the endzone to extend the lead to 28-14. We all know how this game ended. After the two teams exchanged two more touchdowns, the clock ran down to 0:00 and the Gamecocks had beaten the number-one team in America 35-21.
Why It Was Important: There are so many reasons why this game was important. But I think it boils down to one thing. It gave our football team a sense of legitimacy it NEVER had before. That's what beating the #1 team in the country with a 19 game win streak will do for you. People could no longer say, "Oh, it's just South Carolina". People started to take notice as our program as one of those where you say, "Crap, we have to play South Carolina this weekend."
Unsung Hero: Everyone knows about Garcia's incredible efficiency in this game, Alshon's ridiculous one elbow catches and Lattimore just being Lattimore. But nobody seems to talk about the defense. Yeah, McElroy threw for 315 yards. But they held Alabama to only 351 total yards, tallied EIGHT sacks, and held Bama's rushing attack to 36 net total yards on 29 attempts. That's pretty neat, guys.
Up Next: The Gamecocks go to The Swamp, one of our traditional house of horrors, and thoroughly dominate the Gators to clinch the SEC East for the first time in school history.
Bonus Material: If you have time to watch the entire game, you can find it in excellent quality on YouTube here. I watched most of the game earlier this weekend on my DVR to refresh my memory (you may have seen some stuff on GABA Snapchat) and it was well worth it. But if you don't have the time I'll post some highlights of the game for you. Enjoy it, guys. Football season is almost here!