REVIEWAPALOOZA: South Carolina Season, Part IV
It was hard to tell who had more at stake on Nov. 11, 2006: South Carolina fans or Florida fans. The Gamecocks hadn't beat Florida in the Swamp since ... um ... since ... ever. On the other hand, the Gators wanted to prove that Steve Spurrier was the CFB equivalent of Rob Lowe, and never should have a left a good thing.
Steve Spurrier:South Carolina::Rob Lowe:Lyon's Den?
And in the midst of all the pregame hype, C&F made an insightful prediction, though regrettably on a blog not his own:
I just have a deep down feeling it’s going to be a bizarre game with something unexpected.
Maybe it was because South Carolina fans had been exposed to two straight weeks of bizarre games. Maybe it was the fact that certain series -- like Auburn-LSU -- just take on a reputation for strangeness, and the South Carolina-Florida tussle in Columbia a year earlier was basically ended when Florida had too many men on the field in what should have been a routine special-teams play.
But for whatever reason, you knew something odd was going to happen that afternoon/evening in the Swamp.
And it did.
No fewer than three kicks were blocked, two of them by Jarvis Moss, who improbably became the Gamecock offenses' worst enemy since Skip Holtz.
Left for the NFL. A fine decision.
In the end, it was a 17-16 game, and a blocked FG sealed the deal for Florida.
Next up was the ritual sacrifice of Middle Tennessee State, which had to be thrashed for bowl-eligibility. And so the 52-7 torching was to be expected.
Then came Clemson.
And this game, also, featured some just bizarre moments. Weird interceptions. And then the Nathan Pepper interception-cum-fumble that took away a defensive TD.
But a huge defensive play -- a sack of Will Proctor to push back a potential game-tying field goal -- sealed the first defeat of Clemson since the Phil Petty era.
The Liberty Bowl was up and down, up and down, a nausea-inducing seesaw that seemed for a while that it could go to Houston. South Carolina was down at the half, though not by much. Both teams were pretty much scoring at will.
But a shootout, for once, benefited the Gamecocks. And when all was said and done, South Carolina won, 44-36.
What comes next season?
A young defense got some experience. A blooming offense lost Sidney Rice, but might have found a QB and a couple of good RBs in the process. And a certain Head Ball Coach proved he hadn't forgotten how to win honestly, as opposed to the highway robbery South Carolina frequently committed in 2005.
The Gamecocks' game plan last year.
South Carolina first season under Spurrier, according to experts? A 4-7 effort. Instead, the Cocks went 7-5. In 2006? They'd be lucky to go 7-6. Only they went 8-5.
This program has exceeded expectations both years. Will it happen again?
Will the Gamecocks get an SEC crown? I doubt it. They can compete, but the East is just too deep.
Then again, who could have seen the last two seasons coming?