The South Carolina Gamecocks joined the Southeastern Conference in 1992. Since then, there have been a number of great individual performances. The Gamecock fans have had a lot of memories, but the performances in these five games should be at the top of every fan's mind.
The first year in the SEC was not going as planned for head coach Sparky Woods and the Gamecocks. They started the season with five straight losses before Woods decided to start freshmen quarterback Steve Taneyhill. Taneyhill started out very well winning his first two games before 16th ranked Tennessee came to town.
Taneyhill remained calm and cool on the field keeping the Gamecocks in the game. In the fourth quarter, the teams were tied at 17 when Taneyhill led his team down the field on a 79-yard drive.
He capped the drive with his second touchdown pass of the day, this one to Toby Cates with 6:15 remaining, and the Gamecocks took a 24-17 lead. They won the game 24-23 and Taneyhill's performance become an instant classic.
Taneyhill had another great performance in the 1995 Carquest Bowl against the West Virginia Mountaineers. As a junior, he led the Gamecocks to its first ever bowl win as he accounted for two touchdowns, one passing and one rushing, in a 24-21 win. Taneyhill's performance, including 227 passing yards earned him the MVP award.
The 2001 Outback bowl is the site of the single best individual performance since the Gamecocks joined the SEC. With starting running back Derek Watson out for the game backup Ryan Brewer, former Mr. Football in Ohio, took it upon himself to make sure the Gamecocks defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Head coach Lou Holtz told Brewer before the game to play for the team and not for personal reasons. Whatever the reason, Brewer put the Gamecocks on his back and carried them to victory.
In a 24-7 win, the sophomore accounted for all three of the teams touchdowns and 214 all purpose yards. Brewer had 19 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He also added three receptions for 92 yards and 28-yard touchdown reception. Every time Ryan Brewer touched the ball he wanted to score.
He was shedding the first, second, sometimes even the third or fourth tackle before Ohio State's defense could bring him down. He turned in a truly memorable performance willing his way down the field and helping the Gamecocks win.
In 2005, Steve Spurrier took over as head coach for the Gamecocks and the expectations were high to say the least. He had beaten the likes of Tennessee and Georgia many times while he was the coach at Florida so he was expected to do the same at South Carolina.
Spurrier had a pretty successful first season thanks in part to record breaking receiver Sidney Rice.
Spurrier, Rice and the Gamecocks went to Knoxville, TN where the Gamecocks had never won and pulled out a 16-15 win. Sidney Rice helped to break the twelve game losing streak to the Volunteers.
He caught eight passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, accounting for nearly half the team's receiving yards. On a day when no one else seemed to get open, Rice did. He caught a five-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that gave the Gamecocks a lead that they would never lose.
Blake Mitchell was the quarterback when the Gamecocks beat Tennessee in 2005. He and Rice were a very good tandem that day, but Mitchell had his best day in the 2007 Liberty Bowl with another outstanding individual performance.
Steve Spurrier's offense appeared to be in top form thanks to Blake Mitchell who passed for 323 yards and four touchdown passes in a 44-36 win over Houston. Mitchell kept pace in the shootout with the high flying Houston offense. Two of his touchdown passes came from 43 yards out.
These great numbers earned Blake Mitchell the MVP award for the game and also a spot in Gamecocks history for a long time to come.
Those are the five best performances since the Gamecocks joined the SEC, but there are a few that did not make the cut but are worthy of a mention. In 1995 Steve Taneyhill completed 38 of 44 passes for 473 yards and three TDs in a 65-39 rout of Mississippi State. The 473 yards is a school record still today.
Quarterback Eric Kimrey also deserves a mention even though he did not play a full game. In 2000, the Gamecocks were off to a great start when top 25 ranked Mississippi State came to Columbia. Phil Petty was the starting quarterback but he was injured late in the game.
Kimrey told head coach Lou Holtz that he could throw the fade, so without any warm-ups on 4th-and-10 Kimrey threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to take the lead with just over four minutes left in the game. This was his only pass in the game.
In their abbreviated history in the SEC, the Gamecocks have had some very memorable games. We can surely look forward to many more in the future.