South Carolina Football: The 7 Biggest Wins of the Steve Spurrier Era
With the signing of Steve Spurrier in late 2004, the expectations of deliverance for the usually floundering South Carolina Gamecocks were rampant throughout the SEC. While the first five years weren't all as initially hoped for, it had its share of highlights and huge victories.
It can also be seen as the precursor of Spurrier's last two years, which were his most successful. But in seven seasons he achieved seven major wins, and any Gamecock fan can tell you it’s been a long ride. Here are the seven biggest wins of the Spurrier era in its order
7. Clemson: 34-13 (2011)
The 2011 season for the USC Gamecocks was by far its most accomplished season in the program's history. The program capped its first double-digit win season since 1984 by defeating the then-struggling Clemson Tigers in its most complete win of the season.
Bruce Ellington's left-shoulder, 49-yard catch in the first quarter to give the Gamecocks a 10-0 lead helped set the tone, as the Gamecocks cruised to their 10th win of the season.
Clemson couldn’t have been a better team to defeat and set a record against.
6. Nebraska: 30-13 (2012 Capital One Bowl)
This game succeeds the Clemson victory, a Capital One Bowl battle that initially left many Gamecock fans concerned on how the South Carolina defense was going to stop Nebraska’s spread attack.
But the team prevailed with a 30-13 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Also, this victory is important because it capped the program's most successful season in achieving 11 wins.
The Gamecocks' defense swarmed Taylor Martinez and Nebraska’s offense, while Connor Shaw's two touchdown passes directed the offense kept the right direction.
The game not only was the 11th win, it also possibly signified that Spurrier had finally gotten it right.
5. Ole Miss: 16-10 (2009)
The 2009 season was rather disappointing for the Gamecocks. But a victory early in the season against, at the time, No. 4-ranked Ole Miss, was obviously a big deal, and many expected the Gamecocks to feed off of it.
A defensive battle from the beginning, the Gamecocks' victory set off pandemonium throughout Columbia and the metro area (not upstate—that's Clemson territory) on that Thursday night.
Then-senior linebacker Eric Norwood dished out two of the team's four sacks on Jevan Sneed, helping provide Spurrier with his biggest win as head coach of South Carolina at the time.
4. Kentucky: 38-23 (2007)
After losing to eventual BCS champion LSU earlier in the 2007 season, the Gamecocks were sitting at 4-1 and a victory against the No. 8-ranked Kentucky Wildcats was considered South Carolina's midseason national title game.
South Carolina came into the game ranked No. 18, as a win would propel them into the national spotlight. But the team also knew it would have to be a team effort. Kentucky was 5-0 at the time and rolling.
Sure enough, both sides of the ball stepped up to the challenge and defeated the Wildcats 38-23. Quarterback Chris Smelley managed the offense, throwing for 256 yards and two touchdowns.
But it was Eric Norwood’s 53-yard fumble return early in the third quarter that turned the tide of the game, and the Gamecocks never looked back.
3. Florida: 36-14 (2010)
Sighs of relief were felt all around Gamecock country for four primary reasons:
- Finally, the four-year reign of terror that the Florida Gators dished out against the SEC and the Gamecocks was over.
- Finally, another win against Urban Meyer.
- Finally, a win in Gainesville.
- Finally, a trip to Atlanta as a representative of the SEC East.
With the victory over Florida, Steve Spurrier finally got the SEC title berth that many were waiting for. Sure, another win over Florida was nice, but a victory to send them to Atlanta, to many fans, was considered a ticket to the promised land.
2. Florida: 30-22 (2005)
During Spurrier’s first season, the Gamecocks had reason to have confidence in the ballclub and the Ol’ Ball Coach. At one point in the season, the Gamecocks were 7-3 and pulled off five consecutive wins—all against SEC opponents.
Despite ending the season with two losses, the last win of the season came against his own University of Florida football program he once championed in the 1990s.
USC running backs Mike Davis and DaccusTurman both ran for two touchdowns apiece, as the Gamecocks ended any chances of first-year coach Urban Meyer competing for an SEC title.
In retrospect, Steve Spurrier achieved his first signature and most important win at the time as USC's head coach.
1. Alabama: 35-21 (2010)
For any Gamecock fan, this game shouldn't need much illustration.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest wins perhaps in the history of the school (it may have to come third considering the USC Gamecocks' baseball successes). South Carolina arrived as a primary contender in the SEC after knocking off its newly crowned king.
Defeating a No. 1 team isn’t easy by any stretch of imagination. It takes guts and will power.
Alshon Jeffery tallied two receiving touchdowns while Marcus Lattimore added two touchdowns on the ground. Steven Garcia also had the highlight game of his career.
The Gamecock defense did their part by stuffing the run, only allowing 64 yards between former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and backup Trent Richardson (although it is fair to say Saban debunked the run game after a while).
The win versus Alabama was not only the biggest in Steve Spurrier's South Carolina years, but it also should rank amongst his other great wins in his coaching career as a whole.