In 1992, the landscape of college football changed forever. The SEC expanded from 10 to 12 teams and implemented a championship game. The rest of the country would hold out for a while, but conference expansion soon became commonplace. It also changed the course of Gamecock athletics. The transition from an Independent program to a SEC was not always a smooth one. It took South Carolina almost a decade before it was able to gain any real traction. There have been plenty of good and bad memories made in the 26 seasons since the Gamecocks joined the league. We take a look back at the Top 10 SEC victories for this program.
South Carolina Gamecocks Top 10 SEC Victories
Making A Mark
#10 – (18) South Carolina – 30 at Vanderbilt – 14 (October 21, 2000)
On its own merit, this game doesn’t make this list. Vanderbilt is not a main rival of the Gamecocks, and this wasn’t a particularly intriguing game. This game’s importance lies in the fact that this win secured five SEC victories for the first time during South Carolina’s conference tenure. Like many Lou Holtz led teams, this game was won with a strong run game and an even stronger defense. Tailbacks Derek Watson and Andrew Pinnock both ran wild, for 128 and 135 yards respectively. Pinnock scored two touchdowns. As a team the Gamecocks ran for 339 yards and four scores. The defense was equally as stout, allowing less than 250 total yards and only one offensive score.
#9 – (22) South Carolina – 17 vs (24) Georgia – 6 (September 11, 2010)
This game would not even be the biggest of the Gamecocks’ SEC victories in 2010, but it was substantial all the same. This was the game that freshman running back Marcus Lattimore introduced himself to the nation. He punished the Bulldog defense, breaking tackles, running over defenders, and even carrying them on his back at times. Lattimore finished with 182 yards and the games only two touchdowns on 37 carries. Sophomore Alshon Jeffery had 103 yards receiving and was the only Gamecock with more than one catch. The gamecock defense was stout, allowing only two field goals, and 255 yards of offense.
#8 – (18) South Carolina – 16 at (16) Mississippi State 14 – (September 20, 2001)
Sports, much like normal life, seemed to stop for a bit following the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. After college football games were cancelled the weekend following the terrorist attack on our country, play finally resumed that next Thursday. South Carolina traveled to Starkville for a top 20 match-up with the Bulldogs. The game itself was a low scoring slug fest. The Gamecocks were able to prevail thanks to 100 yards rushing from Andrew Pinnock. Lou Holtz’s team did not turn the ball over, and converted all three of its field goal attempts. There was a surreal feeling around this contest. There were no flyovers allowed around the stadium, and Mississippi State fans were able to bring their famed cowbells to the game.
#7 – South Carolina – 16 at (23) Tennessee 15 – (October 29, 2005)
Both the amount of, and importance of, South Carolina’s SEC victories began to increase once Steve Spurrier became the head coach. His first big win as a Gamecock was also the school’s first win in Knoxville. Blake Mitchell threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns, completing passes to six different teammates. Sidney Rice, like most games, was his main target. Rice finished with 8 catches for 112 yards and two scores. His second score was one his best catches while at South Carolina. On 3rd and Goal early in the fourth quarter, he ran a stutter and go route and Mitchell lobbed the ball to the back of the end zone. Rice leaped up between two defenders, secured the ball, and somehow managed to get his foot down before being shoved out the back of the end zone.
Tennessee regained the lead at 15-13 on a 43 yard field goal with 7:39 remaining. Josh Brown kicked the game winning field goal with only 2:45 remaining. The Gamecocks managed their first ever win in Knoxville on a night where Peyton Manning was having his jersey retired. It was also the first time South Carolina defeated then Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer.
#6 – South Carolina – 21 vs (10) Georgia – 10 – (September 9, 2000)
The week before, the Gamecocks had just ended a 21 game losing streak that spanned over two seasons. The rival Bulldogs came to town a top ten team with a quarterback garnering early Heisman hype in Qunicy Carter. Georgia left those accolades behind in Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecock defense harassed Carter all day, intercepting five passes and holding the Bulldogs to only 209 yards of offense. Derek Watson did the heavy lifting on offense, with 93 yards and three touchdowns rushing. He added a 53 kickoff return to his productive day just for fun. South Carolina got its first SEC win under coach Holtz, and ended a three year skid to Georgia.
#5 – (21) South Carolina – 27 at (5) Missouri – 24 – (October 27, 2013)
If Connor Shaw wasn’t a Gamecock legend before this contest, there was no debate following its conclusion. The injured quarterback was inserted into the game with USC down 17-0 in the second half. Shaw was 20/29 passing for 201 yards and three touchdowns. His toughness and decision making led the Gamecocks down the stretch. Bruce Ellington and Mike Davis each had ten catches. Ellington made two terrific touchdown catches, including one with some fancy footwork to tap his toe just before falling out of bounds. South Carolina scored ten points on its two overtime possessions. After a touchdown to begin the overtime, Missouri missed a chip shot field goal to end the game.
#4 – South Carolina – 21 vs (15) Mississippi State – 6 – (October 17, 1992)
All of South Carolina’s SEC victories came after this one. The Gamecocks started their tenure in the league 0-5, and were on a 10 game losing streak dating back to the previous season. Coach Sparky Woods was able to survive a bye week player revolt to right the ship. He inserted freshman Steve Tanneyhill in at starting quarterback, and the team took off. While the young signal caller’s numbers weren’t spectacular, he revived the entire team’s spirit and belief. After having their halftime lead cut to 14-6, Tanneyhill responded by finding Don Chaney on a 43 touchdown pass. The Gamecocks held on from there, and went on to five of their final six games after the horrid start. The Halloween upset of Tennessee a few weeks later is perhaps more fondly remembered, but this upset was the first time South Carolina showed they belonged.
#3 (6) South Carolina – 35 vs (5) Georgia – 7- (October 7, 2012)
This game has been described as the loudest game ever at Williams-Brice Stadium. The match-up of top six teams was only a competitive contest for about 8 minutes of game time. Connor Shaw had touchdown passes to Bruce Ellington and Rory Anderson on the Gamecocks’ first two possessions. Leading 14-0, Steve Spurrier‘s team delivered the knockout blow in the form of an electric 70 yard Ace Sanders’ punt return. Thanks to D.J. Swearinger, Jadeveon CLowney, and the rest of the defense, Georgia never even threatened. Marcus Lattimore once again punished the Bulldog defense, with his 3rd 100 yard game against them. The dominant victory secured South Carolina’s first three game winning streak over their rivals.
Best of The Best
#2 (19) South Carolina – 35 vs (1) Alabama – 21 – (October 9, 2010)
Fans didn’t know what to expect coming off a tough road loss to Auburn the week before. South Carolina welcomed ESPN’s College Gameday and the number one ranked Alabama Crimson Tide to Columbia, and put on a show. The stadium was electric from the beginning, and the fans got everything they could ask for. Stephen Garcia played the game of his life, going 17/20 passing for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Alshon Jeffery was the best player on the field, and the defending champions had no answer for him. He had two scores to go along with his 127 yards receiving. The Gamecock defense held Alabama to just 36 yards rushing and just 5/13 on 3rd down. For the first time ever, and in rather convincing fashion, South Carolina defeated the nation’s number one team.
#1 (23) South Carolina – 36 at (22) Florida – 14 – (November 13, 2010)
The Gamecocks won for the first time in Gainesville to secure their only SEC East division title. Things did not start out very well, with the Gators’ Andre Debose returning the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. Slowly but surely South Carolina worked its way back into the game, and when Stephen Garcia scored on an eight yard run early in the fourth quarter, the celebration was on. Marcus Lattimore was once again huge, with 212 yards and three scores on the ground. The defense was suffocating, allowing just 226 yards and forcing two turnovers. The win propelled the Gamecocks to Atlanta and the SEC Championship game for the first time in their history. Coach Steve Spurrier was carried to midfield by his players after the victory, winning his first big game as a visitor after so many years with the home team in Gainesville.