In any other year I would say no but this year for the South Carolina Gamecocks it feels different. The win over Clemson Saturday may very well have made the 2009 edition of Gamecock football worthwhile. Heading into this game the team and the fan base was on a downward swing having lost 4 straight games. It appeared as though this team was on the verge of collapse much like the previous two years despite signs that there might actually be some life left in the team wearing the Garnet and Black. They hung tight with Florida two weeks ago and all during the off week you could hear the players and coaches talking about how important this game was and how focused they were on winning. Unfortunately that same talk has surrounded this game for the past few years and the results on the field didn’t back the talk up.
Something about Saturday felt different. The team looked different in warm-ups and when they game started they players appeared to have a little extra pep in their step. Despite CJ Spiller running back the opening kickoff for a TD (following a questionable offside call that no one has been able to identify) and Stephen Garcia starting the opening drive with a pick the players never seemed to lose their intensity. The crowd was a different story as you could feel the “Here it goes again” attitude filling the stands. However a shot of Sandstorm later and the first turnover in four games and the offense was on the field again and they were rolling. In fact the game was never in doubt or the same following the first fumble recovery.
Somehow a defense that hadn’t created a turnover in three games began taking the ball away from players who have had a knack for holding onto the ball as Kyle Parker was picked off to setup a score, Jamie Harper fumbled away momentum and even CJ Spiller got into the action coughing up the ball after a solid hit. A running game that had trouble breaking 100 yards as a team managed to rack up 220+ yards on the ground. Even Stephone Gilmore a freshman CB played a little QB in the Wild Cock formation and completed a big pass play to fellow freshman Alshon Jeffrey to set up a Brian Maddox TD run when Stephon Garcia came back in and ran an option play.
The result of the game was never in doubt but what made the most impact wasn’t necessarily the win but the fact that on senior day it was the youth that made the difference. In addition to play of Gilmore and Jeffrey red shirt freshman Kenny Miles ran for over 100 yards and was an instrumental part of a series that saw the Gamecocks run the same play 6 times in a row with no answer from the Tigers as they ground out some clock. Fellow RS freshman receiver Tori Gurley hauled in a TD catch for Garcia and Junior Wesley Saunders found the end zone twice.
On defense Eric Norwood made his presence felt but Kyle Parker saw more pressure from the duo of Cliff Geathers and Cliff Mathews and CJ Spiller seemed to run into Ladi Ajiboye and Melvin Ingram in the middle all afternoon long. Akeeme Auguste locked down Jacoby Ford and Stephon Gilmore’s HS team mate and fellow true freshman Devonte Holloman returned a pick 54 yards to set up a TD.
So does one game make a season? For Carolina fans that have watched their team close out the previous few years with loss after loss the answer is yes. In fact with the way the youngsters played Saturday I think the case can actually be made that one game might have made two seasons. The unofficial mantra of Gamecock athletics is often “Wait till next year” but this may be the one time it is true.