The forecast for South Carolina’s game with Texas A&M at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday is clear — sunny with highs in the low 70s and virtually no chance of rain.
That’s slightly better than what was expected before last weekend’s game against Missouri, which was supposed to feature clear skies, muggy heat and just a 15 percent chance of so of precipitation.
Of course, that’s not what happened. Around halftime and throughout the third quarter, a cloud parked over Williams-Brice and dumped torrential rain, followed by a lengthy lightning delay in the fourth quarter.
Those conditions, players from both teams said, were unlike anything they had ever seen before, and they presented unique challenges, ones that South Carolina may learn from if the Gamecocks face more inclement weather this year.
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“Not even as a kid in the backyard. That was something else,” redshirt junior linebacker Daniel Fennell said when asked if he’s ever played in those conditions before.
“That was my first experience with that,” sophomore wide receiver Shi Smith said. “(It’s hard) making sure you catch the ball. You gotta take the visors off, the visors get foggy. You gotta take the gloves off, the gloves get wet ... they get slick. It’s hard. It’s going to go right through your hands.”
On the other side of the ball, the rain actually helped the defense on the whole, according to Fennell.
“Honest to God, it was an advantage to the defense, but it’s just seeing everything, everyone’s gotta take their visors off, and you just have to be prepared for that because that’s a definite change in everything,” Fennell said. “I enjoyed it. It cooled us off, I thought it was great.”
What Fennell didn’t like was the lightning delay, which lasted roughly an hour and 15 minutes. By that time, the rain had cleared out, but rules dictate that any lightning within 10 miles of the stadium forces a 30-minute delay.
During their time off the field, South Carolina players stretched, discussed their game plan and had a snack — quarterback Michael Scarnecchia said immediately after the game he was fueled by a homemade peanut butter sandwich.
Smith and Fennell’s diet was a little different — Smith had two sandwiches prepared for him by the team’s staff, while Fennell had a sandwich and a Rice Krispie treat.
At the time of the rain, Fennell said he was a “little surprised” when the referees kept the game going despite poor visibility, but it worked out well for the Gamecocks, and moving forward, the team is prepared to face similar conditions if necessary.