Tuesday, January 16, 2007

REVIEWAPALOOZA -- South Carolina Season, Part III


Poor Vandy.

They always seem to be so close. They always play everybody so tough. And then, in a year when they have Jay Cutler, they go and lose to Middle Tennessee State and fall one game short of bowl eligibility. Or, they just play everyone close and go 2-9. And life goes on.

Oddly still a better kicker than Leigh Tiffen. But I digress.

And so South Carolina got a good break when it went to face Vanderbilt in Nashville after the heart-breaking loss to Auburn and the hair-raising win against Kentucky. This was the time to rebound, and the Gamecocks did, beating Vanderbilt 31-13.

And then things got strange.

Two weeks of ricocheting balls, general bad luck and horrendous refereeing ended with a heartbreaking loss to Tennessee and, then, the most unlikely comeback of all. Not by a team, but by a person.

He might be a goat, but he's our goat.

South Carolina was down 23-6 at halftime. The Syvelle Newton Experiment was beginning to come apart at the seams. Arkansas had the offense discombobulated.

And then, Steve Spurrier, QB psychologist extraordinare, once again pulled his magic. He looked at the bench, saw Napoleon Dynamite's twin ready to go, and gave him a shot.

And Blake was brilliant. Two scoring drives later, the Gamecocks were down only 26-20. Then, late, they got the ball back with a chance to win the game. To down a consensus top-15 team. To finally overcome the hump of "Oh, they came so close!"

South Carolina was on the Hogs' end of the field. Mitchell threw.

And Darius Vinnett intercepted.

And in a hotel room somewhere in Warren, Michigan, I screamed.

So close.

So much like Vanderbilt.

And yet so far.

No time to rest, though. The Orange Crush was rolling on.

There was the game against Florida. And Clemson.

And in between that, a game against Middle Tennessee State.

The hope was that South Carolina wasn't like Vanderbilt in at least one way.

Meanwhile, the strangest part of the season was yet to come.

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