[Note: this post can be found as a guest commentary on the excellent Saturday Down South blog.]
Last week was big. As in BIG. REAL BIG.
But it was also Last Week.
This week the Gamecocks travel to Lexington, KY to face Joker Phillips and 3-3 (0-3 SEC) Wildcats. It’s a contest that is easy to overlook, as this Kentucky team has struggled on defense and may be without both a starting defensive end and tailback phenom, Derrick Locke.
There’s also the fact that the Gamecocksown a ten year winning streak over the Wildcats.
So, time to breathe easy, right?
Not on your life. Setting aside the general paranoia that haunts the Gamecock faithful (see Navy game, circa 1984), the SC-KY matchup is always a particularly tough hurdle. While much has been made of South Carolina’s ten game streak, the individual games in that streak have generally been nip and tuck affairs, particularly those played in Commonwealth Stadium. A quick recap of those Lexington games will illustrate:
2000 – Ahead 17-13 in the second half, Jared Lorenzen led his Wildcats on a potential game-clinching drive. After driving deep into SC territory, Lorenzen was picked off by future NFLer Sheldon Brown, who returned the ball to midfield. On South Carolina’s next play, Derek Watson took a simple pitch left from Phil Petty and raced 58 yards for the second half’s only score. Final, South Carolina 20 Kentucky 17.
2002 – South Carolina everyman and cult hero Ryan Brewer scored a go-ahead touchdown late in the 4th quarter. Jared Lorenzen answered with a drive that brought the Wildcats to the SC 35 yard line, only to see his last-second end zone pass fall to the bluegrass incomplete. Final, South Carolina 16 Kentucky 12.
2004 – Kentucky scored late in the contest to take a 7-6 lead. South Carolina, without injured QB Dondrial Pinkins, saw backup Syvelle Newton leave the game with an ankle injury. When the young Blake Mitchell failed to get the Gamecocks moving, Head Coach Lou Holtz inserted 4th string, JUCO transfer Mike Rathe into the contest with the game on the line. An improbable 80 yard drive followed, culminating with a desperate Rathe scramble and pass into the back of the end zone. Speedy Troy Williamson grabbed the floater, kept his foot inbounds, and Gamecocks escaped with the victory. Final, South Carolina 12 Kentucky 7.
2006 – With the game in a 4th quarter balance, Carolina QB Syvelle Newton innocently handed off to RB Cory Boyd. Boyd trotted casually toward the sideline, and then recklessly flipped the ball to WR Kenny McKinley. McKinley, surrounded by UK defenders and looking doomed, threw a rainbow-arched pass into the back of the end zone, where Syvelle stood waiting. Both dangerously conceived and poorly executed, the trick play worked beautifully in the end. Final, South Carolina 24 Kentucky 17.
2008 The Wildcats led 17-14 going into the 4th quarter. Gamecock quarterback Chris Smelley, the reigning SEC player of the week, was pulled in favor of freshman Stephen Garcia (Oh, HBC, you never change). Garcia manufactured ten 4th quarter points with his feet, his arm, and blind luck. Final, South Carolina 24 Kentucky 17.
So, if history is any guide (and for the Gamecock faithful, history is more than a guide, it’s a rent-collecting mob boss) then the Kentucky contest will come down to a play or two in the final quarter. Any expectation to the contrary, whether on the part of our coaches, our players, or our fans is a recipe for disaster.
Otherwise, next week this space may be full of moaning about how the last game was BAD. REAL BAD.