The University of South Carolina's football border war with the University of North Carolina began in 1903. Twelve games passed in the series before the Gamecocks finally beat the Tar Heels in 1924 (there were two ties).
Over the next three decades UNC won an average of four out of every five contests. Those percentages were improved by coach Paul Dietzel, whose teams won all five games against their northern neighbors during his nine-year tenure as Carolina's head coach.
USC dropped three in a row under coach Jim Carlen, before the finest passing performance in school history finally broke the string in1981, during his final season as head coach. Dick Crum's Tar Heels had finished the 1980 season with an 11-1 record, and they came into that October game 6-0, ranked No. 3 in the country, and were averaging a whopping 43 points a contest.
On a beautiful “Carolina Blue” afternoon in Chapel Hill, USC quarterback Gordon Beckham completed 11 straight passes in the first half, his first 14 overall, and finished the day 16-of-17 for 195 yards as the Gamecocks completed dismantled the highly-vaulted UNC defense in a stunning 31-13 upset.
It would remain a victory over the highest-ranked team until the Gamecocks upset then-ranked No. 1 Alabama 35-21 in 2010.
What I also remember about that day was many of the UNC students making their way through the pines to Kenan Stadium walking two by two – a cooler between them. I can tell you that by halftime they were more interested in their beverages than the game.
While the overall series record stands at 34-17-4 in favor of the Tar Heels, the Gamecocks have won four of the last five, including a 21-15 victory the last time the two teams met in 2007.
North Carolina went 8-4 under first-year coach Larry Fedora, and the Tar Heels will attempt to run their fast-paced offense (they like to run a play every six seconds) against a very aggressive Gamecock defense led, of course, by All-American Jadeveon Clowney, in front of a sold out Williams-Brice Stadium.
“Obviously we practice with noise every single day. You hope that's not going to be as big a factor. It'll still be a factor,” Fedora said. “That place (Williams-Brice Stadium), their fans do a great job. It'll be loud. And we expect our guys to be able to concentrate through noise, That's what we do every day. That's one of the reasons that we play music (during practice) non-stop, is that you have to learn how to focus through the outside noise.”
There has never been a lack of enthusiasm for an upcoming football season among Gamecock fans. The decades of 80,000-plus crowds in Williams-Brice Stadium are a testament to that. But after back-to-back 11-win seasons, the off-season hype about Clowney and the highest preseason ranking (No. 6) in school history, expectations are through the roof.
Normally in the summer when I've been asked if I were ready for football, my answer has been “no, I enjoy my summers,” but I have to confess that this off-season I have been like a prisoner marking the days off a calendar until his release.
Even though the first game is on Thursday, it has been one of the longest weeks of my life. With the anticipation of my change of venue to GoGamecocks.com and the unbridled excitement from all the fans I have encountered, my theme has been “I just want to go to bed so it will be tomorrow.”
It's a great time to be a Gamecock!
GLENN SNYDER BIO
A native of Union, he graduated from Union High School in 1964 where he was a three-sport letterman for the Yellow Jackets.
When he was 13, he came to Columbia with two super Gamecock fans. They took him to the stadium and introduced him to coach Marvin Bass. When he saw the Horseshoe, he knew immediately where he was going to school, that he would live in Columbia for the rest of his life, and his dream was to be a sportswriter.
A journalism/media arts major (1964-1969), his first job after school was with the South Carolina Farm Bureau, where he was the Assistant Director of Communications. He managed Carolina Printing Co. for several years, where he met Dexter Hudson, which led to a 30-year career with Spurs & Feathers as senior writer and columnist, which ended this past June.
He and his wife, Mary, have two children, Kevin (41) and Jennifer (34).
Contact Glenn at email@example.com