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Historic Game? Watch out for the "Tweeners"
USC's football history has been marked by wins over "name teams" such as Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame and even LSU. But among the wins have been some losses that mathematicians might expect, but football fans cannot tolerate.
That's why this Saturday's game with S.C. State, scheduled between traditional power Georgia and second ranked LSU, presents an opportunity. It's a chance for change, and for the USC football team to show the Carolina fans that this "tweener" game may not be a win to be bragged about, but hopefully it won't be an "all time" loss to be remembered.
It's natural for USC fans to look past the "sure" win against the Bulldogs from Orangeburg, and look toward playing #2 LSU in Baton Rouge, a team playing more and more like a national champion each week. That thought is being resisted by the coaches and players.
USC Coach Steve Spurrier doesn't think his team is looking ahead. Even as of Tuesday, he felt most of his own players did not know they would play LSU the following Saturday. "Every win is precious to the University of South Carolina football team," emphasized Spurrier, stressing his team should not be looking past any opponent.
USC football history shows that the Gamecocks have mixed results in "tweener" games. The 1987 team, arguably the best in USC football history, smashed N.C State 48-0, and faced Clemson in a top 12 showdown two weeks later. In between, the Gamecocks beat Wake Forest 30-0 in Winston Salem to make sure the match up was still a marquee' game.
The 1957 Gamecocks beat Texas in Austin 27-21 in one of the school's greatest road wins, and then trounced Furman 58-13 the next week before playing Clemson in a "Big Thursday" match up twelve days later. USC lost that game with the Tigers 13-0.
The 1988 squad beat sixth ranked Georgia 23-10 in Columbia in one of the most dominating performances ever by a Gamecock football team over a top ten opponent, then beat Appalachian State by a comfortable 34-9 margin before beating Virginia Tech on the road in what was then a big game.
The 1992 team started 0-5, then beat ranked Mississippi State and Vanderbilt prior to a huge upset of Tennessee in Columbia, 24-23. Can you say Hank Campbell? The next week Carolina barely squeaked past Louisiana Tech 14-13, before the big showdown at Florida. The Gators won 14-9, and that was the closest Carolina came to a win in the series until 2006.
Lou Holtz' 2000 Gamecock squad harassed Quincy Carter of ninth ranked Georgia into five interceptions in a 21-10 win at home, and then crushed Eastern Michigan in Columbia 41-6, before knocking off #25 Mississippi State 23-19 the following week.
But then there are the upsets.
The Citadel? The Gamecocks waxed East Carolina at home 37-7 before losing to the Bulldogs 38-35 in 1990. Sparky Wood's team then lost at NC State in Raleigh 38-29, but still finished the season 6-5.
Pacific? The Gamecocks 23-21 loss in 1981 followed a 20-12 home win over N.C. State, and was as much caused by the loss of future NFL'er and nose tackle Emanuel Weaver in the first half, as the turmoil surrounding Jim Carlen's final season as a college football coach. USC lost to eventual national champion Clemson 29-13 after an off week, and Carlen was fired less than three weeks later after going 6-6 following two straight 8-3 seasons.
Furman? Coach Richard Bell's Gamecock squad routed Cincinnati 37-10 at home in 1982, then lost to Dick Sheridan's purple clad Paladins 28-23 for the low point in a 4-7 season. The next opponent? LSU in Baton Rouge where the 14th ranked Bengals beat the Gamecocks 14-6. Gamecock fans hope history does not repeat itself.
It was shortly after the fourth quarter started last Saturday that Georgia radio sideline commentator Lauren Smith started giving "reasons" for the upset in the making. Smith said that Carolina "practiced only one day" for Louisiana-Lafayette, and spent the rest of the pre-season getting ready for Georgia.
Smith inferred it was quite an advantage for USC. A Carolina fan in the stands nodded after the comment was repeated and said "just half a day's practice" was spent on La-Lafayette.
If true, the Carolina coaching staff may be spending most of this week preparing USC for the Bayou Bengals and not the Bulldogs from the ‘burg. But perhaps not.
"If the coaches only talk about the game coming up, that's what the players will do," said Spurrier.
USC fans might help avoid a letdown if they talk mostly about an inaugural meeting between in-state schools this week, and not LSU. Then maybe the talk years from now about Saturday's USC-S.C. State football game will be about being there for a "first," and not memories of an unforgettable upset. That's a "historical" conversation Gamecock fans can have with pleasure.
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