Second-year sport and entertainment management student Elizabeth Turnage had low expectations when she decided to attend South Carolina football's last home game of 2022.
Heading into the Nov. 19 matchup against the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers, the Gamecocks were fresh off of a 38-6 loss to Florida the week before and entered the game as 22.5-point underdogs, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
“I just kind of assumed we were going to lose," Turnage said. "It was a lot of my friends’ last game, because they were seniors, and they were like, ‘I don’t even care if I go to the game.'"
However, the contest did not end in a Tennessee blowout like Turnage expected and instead saw South Carolina cruise to a 63-38 upset victory.
The Daily Gamecock spoke with students across campus about their experiences at the game that night. Nearly all students surveyed said the win and subsequent field storming were among the major highlights of their time at USC.
Despite fans’ grim pregame outlook, students said energy in the stadium started to pick up when the Gamecocks scored a touchdown five minutes into the game.
“All the seniors were really sad that everyone was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to get pummeled in our last home game,’ and then all of a sudden we got that first touchdown right out of the gate,” first-year biochemistry student Chesley Blake said. “A lot of the seniors got really emotional, even within those first few minutes.”
As the game went on and momentum continued to shift further in South Carolina’s direction, fans’ belief in the team continued to grow.
“It’s very easy to become negative, especially when you’re part of the SEC, and you’re playing Georgia, and you're playing all these tough teams every year,” fourth-year marketing student Yianni Gormanos said. “A lot of people are easy to give up hope, so during that game was the one time that everyone believed we could see this out to the end.”
Evelyn Leary, a second-year biology and psychology student, said the atmosphere differed from other games during the season, describing it as “electric.”
“It didn’t feel like there were 80,000 people, it felt like there were 300,000 people. It was just so much noise, and it felt like everybody was in sync," Leary said. "Everybody was just so excited it was tangible, almost.”
That excitement ultimately culminated into a swarm of people crowding near the end zone, ready to storm the field once the game was over. According to Blake, the security guards patrolling the student section, recognizing there was no stopping the mass of rowdy fans, eventually moved off to the side before waves of students poured onto the grass.
Once students reached the field, they crowded around the center to take photos, dance, carry each other on their shoulders and grab broken twigs and handfuls of dirt to take with them as mementos of the occasion.
Others, such as second-year exercise science student Alexander Su, immediately looked for Gamecock football players to celebrate with.
“My first thought was to try and find a player to see if I could get pictures or maybe even a pair of gloves or something, so I got to talk to Luke Doty,” Su said. “I think I took a picture with Rattler, which was cool."
Even USC students who did not attend the game in person found ways to take part in the celebrations. Third-year international studies student Claire Mattes, who decided to head to Five Points after the game, turned turf from the Williams-Brice Stadium field into a late-night snack.
“I was laughing, and (this guy) put (dirt) in my mouth, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, there’s dirt in my mouth,’ and he goes, ‘We just beat Tennessee. Eat it,'" Mattes said. "So, I swallowed the dirt and chased it with a Corona, and it ended up being one of the best nights of my life.”
For fourth-year elementary education student Ashley Flint, who tore her pants while storming the field, the football game was particularly special, with it being her last one as a USC student.
"My friends and I were already sad before because, obviously, it was our last one," Flint said. "But then to win and be able to storm the field for our last game was definitely a way to go out with a bang and something I'll never forget."