Getting Chilly in Columbia?
South Carolina vs. Tennessee | 30 Oct 2010 | Williams-Brice Stadium
12:21pm EDT | SEC Network and ESPN3.com
It’s that time of year again, the time when the chill in the autumn air normally brings a chill in the backbone of the South Carolina Gamecocks.
It isn’t the first time USC has entered the final stretch of a season with a very decent record. But, this year’s 5-and-2 Gamecock squadron looks bigger than past garnet-and-black forces, mostly because of Florida’s failures. Perhaps that’s not totally fair to USC’s steadily improving program, albeit a program that has made their improvements at a glacial pace. South Carolina has no-kidding quality at key slots this year.
Freshman sensation Marcus Lattimore nursed a sprained ankle last week instead of doing his running thing against the hapless Vandy Commodores. After Lattimore hit the sideline with his ankle boo-boo two weeks ago at Kentucky, the Gamecocks proceeded to give away a big lead, eventually the game, and who knows, perhaps the SEC East title. Rushing for 10 TD’s and adding two more via pass receptions, the Duncan, SC native has given South Carolina realistic big-time hope it hasn’t had in an uncountable number of years. His return to the Gamecock offense gives USC an almost certain win on Saturday against the hapless Vols.
The other story for the Gamecock offense is quarterback Stephen Garcia to receiver Alshon Jeffery. In Nashville last week, Garcia threw 31-for-39 and 339 yards. After two seasons that made it appear the Florida junior wasn’t going to blossom under the long shadow of coach Steve Spurrier, watching him perform against powers Alabama and Auburn (even though USC lost at Auburn, Garcia had his highest game QB rating of the season) has quieted the Palmetto natives’ talk about wanting to see Spurrier retire to the nearest golf course. Such hand-wringing has died to a faint whisper in the most ardent critics’ memories. Jeffrey, with one big play after another, is making folks think he is the best receiving talent in the conference, even above Randall Cobb, although Vol fans’ witnessing of Julio Jones‘ record-breaking performance last week provides a tough act to follow.
But, an unmistakable anchor for South Carolina’s success on the field this season has been their defense. The Gamecocks nationally rank 13th in rushing defense and 27th in scoring defense. Sophomore sackmaster Devin Taylor has eight solo sacks, six additional stops for a loss in yards, and 34 solo tackles. Devin should continue to have his fun this Saturday.
The latter stretches of Gamecock seasons have not been pleasant for South Carolinians (except perhaps for Clemsonites). Beginning with the Tennessee game every end of October, USC is 9-13 during that stretch of games over the last five seasons, excluding bowl games. Who can forget the 2007 campaign when the Gamecocks were 6-1, and after consecutive losses to Vandy and Tennessee, USC ran the table and finished out at 6-6. Such history should give the Gamecock-faithful pause for serious thought coming into this week’s game against the Vols.
Surely, South Carolina fans are finding it hard to believe that they are double-digit favorites against a team who they have defeated only thee times since joining the SEC (3-15). Once a bit of chill hits the air, dread must hang thick in the Columbia atmosphere.
If the Gamecocks are once again going to crash and burn this season, it will not begin this Saturday against your big orange. There will be lots of treats for the locals in Columbia this Halloween weekend.