Stephen Garcia? Not quite.
Melvin ‘Quick Six’ Ingram? Nope.
Jadeveon Clowney? Sorry, try again.
Marcus Lattimore or Alshon Jeffery? They sure as hell help, but no.
It’s the monstrous chunk of concrete standing proud at the corner of Bluff Road and George Rogers Boulevard. The name is Billy Brice. For those of you playing at home, I’m referring to Williams-Brice Stadium (a.k.a. the 'Cock Pit' a.k.a. 'Billy Bob Brice' a.k.a. 'Ill Will'), and more importantly the fans inside it.
Today marks the first home game for the Gamecocks since they bulldozed Troy 69-24 last November, and you can guarantee tonight’s crowd will be greater than or equal to the rowdy, belligerent mob that gathered for that game. There is no doubt that this Navy team has faced some 12th man situations on the road over the years, but when the Midshipmen march into USC' home front at 6pm this evening, they’ll be met by deafening hostility unlike anything they’ve ever faced.
The closest thing to Williams-Brice that these Navy players have ever witnessed was in their 2009 season opener against an over-ranked Ohio State team. After spanking those guys in back-to-back Outback bowls, and after living in the Midwest (Chicago) for the past four years, I can tell you with full confidence that Buckeye fans are weak sauce, comparatively. Fans that fill The Horseshoe are like Taco Bell Mild sauce and the fans in ol’ Billy Brice are like Maurice’s Gourmet Barbeque with some added habanero. You can’t even compare.
But don’t the Midshipmen play the Irish every year, you ask? Yes, I am taking this into consideration as I type this post AT THE NOTRE DAME TAILGATE this very moment. I’ve gotten away with a lot of things tailgating in South Carolina, but what I’m doing now (sitting in front of a computer typing) would never fly. Yeah, it’s 8am, but still I should be making rooster crows right about now. I’m sure Notre Dame fans will flood the comment section here, but let me call you all’s bluff and kick reality about South Bend. You want the truth? The House That Rockne Built is like a library on game day compared to what goes on in Columbia. The student section can be halfway intimidating, but the other 90% of the seats are filled with old retired folk.
Navy’s ground game can suck the energy out of most home team crowds. A triple option offense isextremely frustrating to watch if you’re rooting for the defense. It’s slow, it’s boring, but it works yard after yard. This offensive strategy is known for ‘taking fans out of the game’ but it’s not going to happen this evening. This team is different. This stadium is different. And this crowd is menacing.
Now, of course I have full faith in our coaches and players to pull off a victory. I’m not saying that the 12th man is our sole key to a Gamecock win. I don’t care if they’re playing in Columbia, Navy, or the moon…The Gamecocks will beat Navy. What I am saying is this. There is a lot of aggression and thirst for revenge in the air tonight. The Gamecocks have had some sub-par play in their last two wins and so the next team might just turn into a punching bag. Sorry, Navy. That's you.