South Carolina 35, Alabama 21: The Day the Gamecocks Stepped Out Into the Sun

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South Carolina 35, Alabama 21: The Day the Gamecocks Stepped Out Into the Sun
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

In my mind that was the day. The day the South Carolina Gamecocks announced to the college football world, "we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!" It was their own Howard Beale—from the 1976 motion picture "Network"—moment.

But I may have it all wrong. I do really like the Gamecocks program and have respect for its history and its coaches. Still, I grew up a Tennessee fan.

I am sure I can give you the "moment" that at least half of Tennessee football fans would agree on. But maybe this one isn't even on the radar at South Carolina.

The "moment" happens as the result of a game where the team claimed or reclaims their national prominence. Thus, they step out of the shadows, and into the sun as a national power—either again or for the first time.

For Tennessee the moment came in the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1986.

That UT team finished the year 9-1-2 and was John Major's first SEC champion at Tennessee. Their opponent was the Jimmy Johnson-coached, 10-1 Miami Hurricanes.

Miami, and their coach, were excited that they still had a shot at the national title. Their only loss was the first game of the season to Florida.

After that, they had run off 10 straight wins, beating No. 3 Oklahoma earlier in the year. Then, they embarrassed a 5-6 Notre Dame, 58-7 in their last game.

It turned out that Oklahoma got the Orange Bowl bid to play No. 1-ranked Penn State. That left mighty Miami with the Sugar Bowl and No. 8, Tennessee.

Was the 2010 win over No.1 Alabama the biggest win of the Steve Spurrier era?

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Johnson reasoned—several times on interviews nationally that week—should Oklahoma beat Penn State, that his Hurricanes would have a shot at the title. Word has it he had to be reminded at least once that they would have a shot only if they won their game versus the 8.5-point underdogs, Tennessee.

On game day, the Miami and UT team captains met at midfield for the coin flip. After the flip and the ref's explanation for the crowd, the Tennessee captains extended their hands to the Miami captains.

It was an attempt to have the traditional "have a good game" handshake. The Miami players turned and walked away without a handshake or a word.

To say it nicely, they were a confident lot, but their manners were somewhat lacking.

Miami scored on their first possession to make it 7-0. After that, Miami never got another whiff of the UT end zone, and Tennessee scored 35 unanswered. The final score was UT 35, Miami 7.

Tennessee was back!

That was their moment in the 1980s.

That Alabama team of 2010 was good—really good. It isn't a stretch to think that if they had not been beaten by the Gamecocks that day, they would have run the table.

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

If so, that could have been three national championships in a row. Their other two losses in 2010 were by three at LSU and the one-point loss to Auburn.

I think the unexpected loss to No. 19-ranked South Carolina took away their edge. The Gamecocks didn't just win the game; they dominated the scoreboard.

The stats say it was pretty even. But Alabama could not get in the game on the scoreboard. This from an Alabama team that was accustomed to dominating the scoreboard against their opponents.

In my humble opinion, that was South Carolina's moment of the Steve Spurrier era.

Please tell us all which game you consider to be South Carolina's "moment" game in the past 25 years.

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