If no one is seriously injured, there is no tragedy in the outcome of a football game -- “some gotta win, some gotta lose.” That said, it would have been an absolute tragedy if South Carolina had not rallied to beat Florida Saturday night.
There are the obvious reasons: eighth win this season, school-record and nation-leading 16th-straight home win, and oh yeah, remaining in the hunt for the Eastern Division title.
Those are great accomplishments for this year's Carolina team, but this win was for the Gamecock Nation.
I won't say the best ever, but the intensity level of the 83,853 fans, on a full moon Saturday night, would certainly make my top three. I have been to a lot of games in Williams-Brice, but there has never been a pregame frenzy quite like this, and it was created by the Georgia-Auburn game and by technology.
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So much for coach Steve Spurrier's decree that they would pay “absolutely no attention to the Georgia-Auburn game,” because by the time the kickers came out early to start their warmups, the Bulldogs-Tigers game was on the big screen and was the dominant focus of USC fans.
Around that time the Tigers were winning 34-17, and they appeared to be on their way to an easy win that would eliminate the Bulldogs from the conference title chase. (I asked sideline reporter Langston Moore and several others on the sideline if they thought the game would be on the screen if the score was reversed? They all agreed probably not.)
The video of the game was interrupted by commercials, public service announcements and introductions of the starting lineups. The next update we got was on the digital video boards, and to our shock, the score read Georgia 38, Auburn 37. The moans from the fans on the west side were very audible.
The next shot of the game on the screen was not of the improbable Hail Mary catch that won the game for Auburn, but of Georgia's Aaron Murray's last desperate throw that fell incomplete as the clock ran out.
There has never been a more enthusiastic response by Carolina fans to a team of Tigers winning a game. They went absolutely nuts, and when the 2001 theme music started, 99 percent of them were waving their white spirit towels with a little extra fervor.
Do you want a true barometer of the interest in the Georgia-Auburn game for USC fans? My wife, Mary, at home, watched every play of their game. Now, she has grown to love football and she will watch anything Gamecock with me, but sit and watch every snap of two other teams? No way!
The game against Florida started as well as we had hoped. The Gamecocks took the opening kickoff and drove down the field against the SEC's No. 1-ranked defense. The Gamecocks had to settle for a field goal, but the attitude was like, “Hey, it's the first of a lot of points we're going to put on the board.”
Then the Gators promptly burned the Gamecocks defense for 14 points, and I can tell you that pregame frenzy, fizzled. I believe the faithful started wondering if the Gamecocks, such heavy favorites over an obviously handicapped Gator team, would blow this opportunity to accomplish so many goals.
Of course they didn't, and eight wins with two games to play, means it's another terrific season. It's just that it's been excruciating to watch the way the Gamecocks have gotten almost all of their victories. Double-overtime miracles, return-from-the-dead second halves, and even a last-play loss have created so many heart-stopping moments. Nothing has come easy for this season's team.
It has been stressful, but it has also been a lot of fun. There is nothing more enjoyable than watching a team that doesn't flinch, doesn't give up, and finds a way to win. I have played enough sports to know that facing these challenges and overcoming them together creates some bonding moments they will share with each other for the rest of their lives.
There are two more challenges that offer the Gamecocks an opportunity for a third-consecutive 10-win regular season. Believe me, when I say, that's way beyond the wildest dreams of all of us old-timers.
Florida was the “upset special” pick of the week by several sources, and some may say the same about this week's meeting with Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers moved to 10-1 with a 46-13 romp over Presbyterian last Saturday. No team wins 10 games with smoke and mirrors.
I'll save my analysis for Friday, but suffice to say, expecting anything but the unexpected from the 2013 Gamecocks is a fool's journey.
It's a great time to be a Gamecock!