Ten Seasons of Spurrier


South Carolina’s football program was at a bit of a crossroads as the calender turned from 2004 to 2005.  While the Lou Holtz’s Gamecocks has finished bowl eligible for the first time in three seasons, they didn’t go to one due to the ugly brawl vs Clemson that marred what would turn out to be Holtz’s last game in charge.  A slew of off the field problems that stemmed from reactions to the bowl ban left the program at a crossroads.  Less than a week after Lou Holtz made his retirement from coaching official, Steve Spurrier was announced as the head ball coach in Columbia.  Now, ten seasons later, I would like to take a look back at some of the more memorable moments from each season in the Spurrier era.

Since this was his first season as coach, there were multiple games or moments that stood out.  The long touchdown pass to Noah Whiteside on the first drive of the season against UCF, and the late FG to seal a 16-15 win for the first time ever in Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium both came to mind.  I settled on one memorable game that I was lucky enough to be at Williams-Brice for, a 30-22 win over Florida Gators in Coach Spurrier’s first game against his former team.   Sidney Rice starred that day; I can still picture him looking over both shoulders twice to find the ball before making a diving catch in the redzone that would set up a touchdown.  It remains one of the best catches I’ve ever seen.  Defensive end Jordan Lindsey also had a sack and forced fumble late to help seal the victory.

2006 8-5

The HBC’s second season ended in an 8-5 record, with all five losses coming to Top 15 teams.  After narrowly losing 17-16, due to having three kicks blocked, at eventual National Champion Florida, the Gamecocks recovered to end the season on a high note.  Among the three game winning streak to end the year were a couple of firsts for the Gamecocks under Spurrier.  He recorded his first victory over rival Clemson Tigers 31-28 in Death Valley, in what was a high tempo, back and forth game.  The Gamecocks twice fell behind by two touchdowns, but were able to fight back to pull off a 31-28 upset thanks to a ground game that produced two 100 yard rushers in Cory Boyd and Mike Davis.  South Carolina also notched its first Bowl win under Spurrier, winning a 44-36 shootout over the Houston Cougars.

2007 6-6

This remains the only non-winning season in the last ten years, as the Gamecocks rose to 6-1 and #6 in the rankings, before falling apart and losing 5 in a row to end the year.  I often joke with friends about what was said in the locker room at halftime of the game at UNC.  Coach Spurrier’s team was up 21-3 and seemingly doing whatever we wanted on offense, they came out flat in the second half and barley hung on for a 21-15 win.  The next week I was in the stands for the listless performance against Vanderbilt, and the 17-6 loss began a five game losing streak to end the year.

2008 7-6

This was a tough season to find anything from, by overall program standards, 7-6 and a bowl appearance will be looked upon favorably, but a three game losing streak ended the year on a definite down note.  The exclamation point was a 31-10 drubbing in the Outback Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes.

2009 7-6

Although the record was the same as the season before, this is the year that sparked a turnaround for the Gamecock football program.  Highlighted by an early season win over then #4 Ole Miss, the first ever victory over a Top 5 team, South Carolina even spent four weeks ranked in the Top 25.  The most memorable moment was against Clemson, when Coach Spurrier finally put multi-talented freshman Stephon Gilmore on offense in the Wildcat formation.  That change sparked the offense to life and the defense was dominant in a 34-17 win that started a 5 game winning streak over the upstate rivals.

2010 9-5

When recalling this season, one thing comes to mind over any other factor, first year tailback Marcus Lattimore.  The big moments were plentiful in 2010, with Lattimore’s huge game against the Georgia Bulldogs, a home win over #1 Alabama, and a second straight win over Clemson standing out.  Of course, there is only one moment that really mattered, and it happened November 13th in Gainesville.  Behind 230+ yards rushing from the freshman star, the Gamecocks beat the Gators 36-14 to clinch their only SEC Eastern division title.

2011 11-2

USC ended the year on a four game winning streak, including a home thrashing of the rival Tigers and a Citrus Bowl victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but the defining moment of the season happened on a hot September day in Athens, Ga.  In what was a wild game, and with his team down early in the 2nd quarter, Coach Spurrier made one of his best play calls as the head man in Columbia.  On 4th down, on their own side of the 50 yard line, South Carolina called a fake punt and defensive lineman Melvin Ingram took off with the ball and rumbled 50+ yards for a touchdown.  After seizing momentum with that wild play, the Gamecocks went on to win a 45-42 shootout with the Bulldogs.

This was the second straight 11 win season, by what I believe to be the most talented team in Carolina’s history.  This team was loaded with NFL talent on defense, and spearheaded on offense by Conner Shaw, Marcus Lattimore, Ace Sanders, and Bruce Ellington.  A midseason Top 10 beat down of Georgia showed just how good this team could be.  The pivotal moment however was once again in the rivalry game with Clemson.  Conner Shaw was out injured and Dylan Thompson stepped in to lead the team to a 27-17 victory in Death Valley.  Jadeveon Clowney had a school, and Memorial Stadium, record 4.5 sacks.  Safety D.J. Swearinger had the highlight of the night with his huge hit on Clemson’s Andre Ellington, which sent the running back flipping thru the air.  USC ended the year with its second consecutive bowl win, a 33-28 Outback Bowl victory over Michigan, in one of the wildest and most entertaining games I’ve ever seen.  I think there was a memorable hit in that game too.

2013 11-2

Looking back, this team will be remembered for its sheer will and fight that led it to such and impressive season.  There was no game that showed that more than what is known by Gamecock fans as the Shawshank Redemption game.  Trailing 17-0 on the road to Missouri entering the 4th quarter, Coach Spurrier inserted injured QB Conner Shaw into the game to try and spark a comeback.  It worked.  Shaw, limping around on one good leg, led a remarkable comeback that included three touchdown passes, one of which was on 4th down in overtime.  Missouri missed a short field goal in the second OT and the Gamecocks won in a stunning turnaround.

2014 7-6

I think all know how disappointing this past season was, especially after reaching the heights of three straight 11 win campaigns.  The defensive failures have been well documented, but this team was able to muster up some fight in the bowl game with Miami to secure a winning record and extend the bowl winning streak.  Pharoh Cooper emergence as a superstar on offense will be one of the few positives that will be remembered from such a disappointing year.

There you have it, thanks for joining me on this trip down memory lane.  IF you had told me, or any Carolina fan, ten years ago that we would have ten straight seasons without a losing year, you probably would have gotten laughed at.  It is indeed a great time to be a Gamecock, and hopefully we will continue to rack up good memories in the seasons to come.