November 15th, 1969
Remember this date, Gamecock Nation; because it is the only recognized football championship in over a century of the sport at the University of South Carolina.
On this historical day, the Gamecocks fought the driving snow and 25,000 Wake Forest fans at Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to earn a 24-6 victory. Like it or not, Quarterback Tommy Suggs (8-15, 93 Yards, 3 TDs) clinched South Carolina's only conference championship in the school's long, frustrating football history.
Since then, Williams- Brice Stadium and the city of Columbia have long awaited a "second coming" in other words, another football championship.
Sure, the Gamecocks have came close before. In 1967, a victory over Clemson would of given South Carolina a share of the ACC Championship, as in a three-way tie.
As an Independent from 1972- 1991, a "second coming" was no longer possible. In 1984, a victory over Navy would of sent the Gamecocks to the Orange Bowl, where USC could have won a national championship.
Carolina's best chance to win another championship came under Lou Holtz in 2000. A victory would have sent USC to the SEC Championship for the first time in history.
Fast foward to 2010. The University of South Carolina's sports fortunes have changed in dramatic fashion. Starting in February and ending in October, the basketball, baseball, and football teams have defeated a No. 1 team in dominating fashion. Basketball (Kentucky), Baseball (Arizona State), and Football (Alabama).
The baseball team did something that was never accomplished before at Carolina: win a national championship.
The question is... can the football team come through?
Regardless, this is USC's most momental game in history. Although the 6-3 (4-3) SEC Gamecocks have struggled at times, a win would give Spurrier's squad it's first trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.
“This has turned into a one-game season. What we do here will make or break our season,” FB Pat DiMarco insists. “If we win this game, then all our goals are out there and we’ll be on top of the world. We need to go out there and take advantage of it. All of us are so excited. We’re just going to go out there and give it all we’ve got. I don’t think there’s anything holding us back right now.”
The key for a Gamecock victory is the defense. The secondary gave up 303 passing yards to Ryan Mallet as the Gamecocks lost to the surging Arkansas Razorbacks last week, by the tune of 41-20.
Cornerback C.C Whitlock did not practice on Thursday and might not play in the Florida game. Whitlock suffered a concussion as he ran into an Arkansas player last Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium. Chris Culliver, who is is supposed to be the starter in place of Whitlock, is out for the season with a torn muscle in the chest.
If Whitlock is healthy, Defensive Backs coach/Defensive Coordinator Lorenzo Ward will choose between him and backup Marty Markett to start the Florida game.
As the secondary prepares for the Gator passing attack, The South Carolina Linebackers and Defensive Tackles should take this stat to the bank- Florida has given up 17 sacks this year, tied for 6th worst in the SEC.
In contrast, South Carolina has sacked the Quarterback 31 times this season. Cliff Matthews and Co. must use this as an advantage.
Defensive coaches Brad Lawing, Ellis Johnson, and Lorenzo Ward must prepare the defense for many different Gator sets. Florida has a three quarterback system and many other offensive weapons. Trust me, Urban Myer is not afraid to use them.
On offense, South Carolina needs to use star Running Back Marcus Lattimore to control the tempo of the game. It is all up to Stephen Garcia (2,065 yards,14 TDs) to get the Gamecock passing attack down the field.
Alshon Jeffrey, who has caught 59 passes for 1,034 yards and 7 Touchdowns; along with Tori Gurley (357 YDs, 4 TDs) must use the athletic ability and aggressiveness they have portrayed all season to handle Florida's nearly flawless defensive secondary. Speedster Ace Sanders may allow himself to be coach Steve Spurrier's trick play "secret weapon".
Alshon's likely opponent, Florida corner Janarious Jenkins, is known for blanketing taller wideouts. Facing Florida's secondary will be no easy task. Florida's DBs has combined for 17 INTs.
Will the Gamecocks make history and win the SEC East for the first time? Will November, 13th 2010 go down in history for the University of South Carolina? Or will the slogan "Wait till' next year" come in effect again, as the Gamecocks once again fail to turn the corner?
We will find out on Saturday at 7:00 PM, on ESPN. Remember, the winner of the South Carolina/ Florida game will most likely face the Auburn Tigers on December, 4th in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.