Ah, Georgia. I believe the game that the Gamecock Nation looks most forward to every season, other than the final one, of course, is the annual match up with the Bulldogs.
But how many of you remember that it was the decision by the USC administration to join the Southeastern Conference that revived the series that began in 1894? Shortly after the Gamecocks beat the Dawgs 24-20 in 1989, Georgia officials canceled the series. When Carolina accepted the invitation to join the SEC on Sept. 25, 1990, to begin play for the 1992 season, the very first thought I had was, “Yes, Georgia every year.”
The two teams did not meet in 1990 and 1991. In August of '91, my wife Mary and I drove to Athens, rode around the campus and toured the very impressive 85,000 square-foot Butts-Mehre Athletic Center. I explained to friends that we made the trip because “my car expects to go to Athens every other year.” (It was also when I first realized just how far USC had to go in the facilities war.)
Georgia has dominated the series (46-15-2), which means that there have been many heartbreaking losses, but there have also been a few memorable victories as well.
One of the most heartbreaking defeats came in 1980. An unbeaten, No. 4 Georgia, with a freshman running back by the name of Hershel Walker (1982 Heisman Trophy winner), faced a one-loss, No. 14-ranked USC team with All-American running back George Rogers, who was on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy.
Trailing 13-10 in the 4th quarter, Jim Carlen's Gamecocks had the Dawgs right where they wanted them, driving for what would have been the winning, or at least the tying, points. Rogers had suffered an injury to his right arm on the previous USC possession. On the next series, he ran a play off tackle, but he fumbled when he tried to switch the ball to his left arm.
The defense forced Georgia into a punting situation, but Emanuel Weaver was called for roughing the punter. Although Walker was stopped on a fourth-and-goal, only 45 seconds remained in the game. When quarterback Gary Harper's pass was intercepted the upset bid died.
A 21-20 home victory over the Bulldogs in 1984 was the third win in what would become a nine-game winning streak, which earned the Gamecocks a No. 2 national ranking and the possibility of playing for the National Championship in the Orange Bowl. Those dreams disappeared in game 10 with a most improbable 38-21 loss to Navy.
The Gamecocks did come back the next week and defeated Clemson 22-21, with a do-over extra point by Scott Hagler after the Tigers were flagged for being off sides. What made this victory especially impressive was that the Gamecocks rallied from a 21-3 deficit against a Clemson defense led by 320-pound nose guard William Perry, who went on to star in the NFL.
Quarterback Mike Hold ran the veer offense to perfection, and Quinton Lewis gained 85 yards on 11 carries that afternoon. The defense was led by one of the best linebackers in school history, James Seawright, who had 28 tackles, along with stellar performances from DE Tony Guyton and DB Brad Edwards.
One of my all-time favorite wins against UGA came in 1993. Led by brash sophomore Steve Tanneyhill, the Gamecocks had battled toe-to-toe with the Dawgs but trailed 21-17 late in the fourth quarter when they started their final drive.
I was standing on the sidelines, with my feet straddling the goalline when running back Brandon Bennett dove over for the winning TD with two seconds left in the game. I remember on the ride home hearing a replay of that final play by Georgia Hall of Fame announcer Larry Munson, who was imploring the Dawg defense to “Lay down, you guys! Fourteen, 13, 12, lay down! Eleven, 10. South Carolina's going to try to get a play off. He scored on the last play of the game. Bennett, a great athlete, leaping over the pile and broke our hearts with two seconds to go.”
It gave me goosebumps the size of dimes.
The 1998 game in Athens posed a personal challenge. The game was scheduled for September 11, which happened to be Mary's 50th birthday. I was on the horns of a dilemma: not go to the game (not really an option), or scrounge up a ticket for Mary. Luckily I was able to come up with a pair, plus we had the use of a friend's cabin in Helen, Ga., complete with a spectacular view from a jacuzzi on the porch.
On our ride to the game, we stopped in an antique store and I bought Mary a dollhouse, which was one of the things on her bucket-list. Georgia won the game 28-19, but I retained my status as “a good husband.”
Under Lou Holtz, the Gamecocks won back-to-back games, 21-10 at home in 2000 and 14-9 and on the road in 2001.
Most surprising to me was the dramatic change in the attitude of the Georgia fans when Steve Spurrier took the job in 2005. Before the Head Ball Coach arrived, it was common for all of us wearing garnet and black to suffer a good bit of verbal abuse as we made our way to Sanford Stadium. I guess with Coach Spurrier's 11-1 record against the Dogs in his 12 seasons at Florida, they sensed that a change was a comin’.
Since back-to-back losses in 2008, and 2009, the Gamecocks have ripped off three in a row, something Carolina's fans, even in their wildest dreams, could not imagine happening.
Now, we head to Athens to see if the Gamecocks can make it four in a row. Clemson's 38-35 win against Georgia gives me some pause. You're not anxious to meet an angry Bulldog, but I like Carolina's chances. I believe the game will be won or lost by the play of USC's offensive line.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org