Gamecocks look to tie record for consecutive home games won
When senior quarterback Connor Shaw entered the game in the third quarter last weekend, more than just that single game turned around.
After toppling then-fifth-ranked Missouri, South Carolina’s season is back on track and the Gamecocks (6-2, 4-2 SEC) are squarely in the hunt for the SEC Eastern Division crown.
“It just worked out,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “You don’t know how to explain how it worked out. But it did for us.”
After falling to an unranked Tennessee team earlier in the month, South Carolina’s SEC Championship hopes seemed dashed, but with several convenient losses from Georgia and last Saturday’s triumph over the Tigers, the division is wide open.
Throughout this week of practice, the win over Missouri has had an uplifting effect on the football program, giving coaches and players alike a renewed sense of purpose.
“After that game, I’ve never felt like that before,” junior defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, “I’ve been playing football all my life and I’ve never felt the happiness (I felt) and you just feel like you’re out there with a bunch of brothers. I mean, it was just something you just can’t explain.”
Quarles’ defensive teammate, redshirt freshman T.J. Holloman, added that the upset win gave the Gamecocks the confidence they need to win the rest of their games and put themselves in a position to win the division.
“It definitely brought us together,” Holloman said. “It just gave us a boost of energy really and showed how we can do anything if we put our minds to it.”
South Carolina’s most likely path to the SEC Championship game would be to win its two remaining conference games and hope for some help in the form of Georgia and Missouri each collecting one more loss. There are several other possible scenarios in which the Gamecocks could punch a ticket to Atlanta, Ga., but that’s when things get messy.
As if Saturday’s game against Mississippi State didn’t come with enough incentive to win, a victory over the Bulldogs would tie the school record for consecutive home wins.
“We talked about [the record] briefly, but not too much. We realize we’ve got a chance to tie the all-time streak of 15,” Spurrier said. “But again, talking about it is not going to help us beat them.”
If South Carolina does tie the mark, it will be all the more impressive considering the record was set before the program joined college football’s most powerful conference, the SEC.
Saturday’s clash with the Bulldogs will be the first time the Gamecocks have played at Williams-Brice Stadium since Oct. 5 after going 2-1 on their three-game road trip. And the fact that all of South Carolina’s remaining games are in Columbia could play a major role in deciding the SEC East.
“(Playing at home) is what most of us, all of us, came to South Carolina for,” Quarles said. “There’s nothing like it and, like I said, I can’t wait till kickoff.”
Within the Gamecocks’ historic run at home, the team has managed to make single-season history as well.
Last season, South Carolina won seven games at home for the first time in school history, a mark this year’s team could match by winning its last four games of the season.
Much like last weekend’s miraculous win at Missouri, South Carolina has managed to bring its season as a whole back from the brink of disaster. And Spurrier is continuing to preach focus as his young team looks to accomplish several monumental goals this season.
“Being 6-2 is not bad. It’s not bad at all,” Spurrier said. “And the opportunity to come home now and see if we can make this a special season remains to be seen. But that’s the position we’re in, and hopefully we’ll do our best to take advantage of it.”