USC Gamecocks Football

September 5, 2013

Georgia fans struggle as Gamecocks improve

In Gamecock country, Bulldog fans fret in advance of Saturday’s USC vs. Georgia contest.

Pork Chop Thursday might be tense again at Mary Jeffcoat’s house next week. The Jeffcoats have hosted the weekly gathering of friends at their Lake Murray home “for years now.”

Through the 1980s and then the 1990s and again through the 2000s, the president of the Midlands Bulldog Club rarely if ever got nervous about the first dinner party after the South Carolina-Georgia game. Now, after three straight Gamecock wins in a series that once was owned by the Bulldogs, she’s already worried about just how gracious a host she is going to have to be.

“Back when Carolina was not as good as they are now, it didn’t bother me, but the last three years that Pork Chop Thursday is hard for me to see them all,” she said. “I am not a good loser and my friends know that, but they know I don’t pick when they lose. This weekend I just kind of distance myself from them.”

Jeffcoat, who graduated from Georgia “in the 70s” and is now retired, is just one of a healthy number of Georgia fans in and around Columbia who are adjusting to the swing in this series’ momentum. Until 2010, the Bulldogs led the series 46-13-2, and had won seven of eight from 2002 through 2009.

The No. 6 Gamecocks (1-0) enter Saturday’s game against No. 11 Georgia (0-1) on a three-game winning streak in the rivalry.

“It used to be easier, like the year when Carolina won one game and the next year they won zero games,” Jeffcoat said.

For Jeff Hipp, it’s a discouraging feeling of déjà vu. Hipp starred at Brookland-Cayce High School before going to Georgia, where he played on the Bulldogs’ 1980 national championship team. Georgia beat South Carolina on the way to that title but lost to the Gamecocks in 1978 and 1979.

In fact, 1979 was the last time Georgia lost to Clemson and USC in the same season. It could happen again this year after the Tigers beat the Bulldogs, 38-35, this past Saturday.

“I’ve got experience with some bad tastes in my mouth,” Hipp said.

Jeffcoat says her Gamecock friends haven’t changed as Steve Spurrier has transformed their team from the Program That Couldn’t Shoot Straight into a yearly SEC East contender, but Georgia graduate Elyse Theodore has noticed a shift.

“It is a lot tougher because the Gamecocks people have changed so much,” Theodore said. “They are just a lot more intense now because they have tasted a little bit of victory. I think they changed with that.”

Hipp, who lives in West Columbia and runs a scouting service for high school athletes, has noticed the change, too.

“People everywhere I run into them, they talk about four in a row, four in a row, four in a row,” he said. “They just feel confident they are going to go down there and beat us again. Their head is not down like it used to be going into Athens.”

Theodore, a 1983 Georgia graduate, is the daughter-in-law of former South Carolina Lt. Gov. Nick Theodore and wife of a South Carolina fan. Drew and Elyse, and much of their extended family, will be in Athens on Saturday for the game. Elyse and daughter Georgia, a junior at Georgia, will be planted among the red and black, while her husband will be in the South Carolina section.

“We don’t sit together at that game,” she said. “We used to, but I said it’s better to be with your own kind at that game. Everybody is happier at the end of the day.”

Jeffcoat and her husband will take their motor home to Athens as they do for most games at Sanford Stadium. She is the daughter of former Georgia cheerleading coach and local Athens legend “Coach Mike” Castronis, who died in 1987 after a battle with cancer. He is a member of Georgia’s Circle of Honor and the football team annually awards the “Coach Mike” Award to the player who never quits. Jeffcoat, who has survived her own battle with cancer, wants no part of predicting a final score.

“After what I saw Saturday night (in Clemson’s 38-35 win over Georgia), I am scared just because of (Jadeveon) Clowney on defense and our offensive line didn’t look too good,” she said. “That worries me because that’s all we heard all summer was that was the strength of the team, and I was just shocked.”

While Jeffcoat might have to suffer through another Pork Chop Thursday, Theodore points out things could be worse. Her two oldest children attended Alabama, which has won three of the last four BCS national titles.

“We can’t say a whole lot when the Alabama kids come around except, ‘Yes sir,’ ” she said.

Audio clip below: Georgia fan crying on radio show after Clemson loss

Audio courtesy of 92.9 The Game in Atlanta

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