When I heard a while back East Carolina University had been added to our football schedule, I couldn’t help but cringe a little. Even though eleven football seasons have come and gone since we played them last, they still give me the heebie jeebies.
It’s easy to pinpoint why: the decade of the 90’s.
I was a fairly young Buck then, paying a large portion of my small salaries every year to purchase season tickets to USC games, drive to USC games, tailgate at USC games, all with the hope we were going to turn the corner and become relevant in college football under Woods/Scott/Holtz. The vast majority of those seasons turned sour, and many of those sour seasons had a common denominator – the ECU Pirates.
(For those of you who were die-hard Gamecock fans in the 90’s, I apologize for opening the following wounds. For those of you who weren’t but are now, avert your eyes.)
In 1990 we beat East Carolina 37-7, and we held an 8-0 series lead over the Pirates. We were supposed to beat ECU, every year, no exceptions. But after that 1990 game, things didn’t go so good:
- 1991 – ECU 31, USC 20 – One of two games played in Greenville, NC (this one in front of 33,000 fans), and the first of many times we said to ourselves, “We can’t be losing to East Carolina.” Final record: 3-6-2. (Remember ties?)
- 1992 – ECU 20, USC 18 – Celebrating 100 years of Carolina football, USC had TWO chances to win this game with a field goal. Marty Simpson’s first attempt from 36 yards was blocked but recovered by the Gamecocks. Since it was not fourth down he had another attempt from 37 yards, but missed. Final record: 5-6 (after an 0-5 start)
- 1993 – USC 27, ECU 3 – Finally, the long national nightmare is over. But it wasn’t enough to save Sparky. Final record: 4-7
- 1994 – ECU 56, USC 42 – Enter Brad Scott. I’ve sat through a lot of painful games at Williams Brice, but this ranks right near the top. We were 4-1, coming off a victory over LSU in Baton Rouge the week before. In the fourth quarter of this game it looked like we were playing with four guys on defense. The next week we would lose to Mississippi State 41-36. The signs that Brad Scott was awful were there, but we let the glory of our first bowl victory overwhelm us. Final record: 7-5
- 1996 – ECU 23, USC 7 – We were 2-0, had Anthony Wright and Duce Staley, and were coming off a huge, emotional victory over UGA. This game was played in an absolute deluge. The steps at W-B were like waterfalls, and somehow a dude for ECU named Scott Harley rushed for 291 yards. We finished with six wins, but didn’t go to a bowl, which made this loss all the more painful. Final record: 6-5
- 1997 – USC 26, ECU 0 – Me, the Gman and a couple of other people actually made the trip to
MogadishuGreenville, NC, to see this one in person. I have no idea what we were thinking, but fortunately things turned out all right since we didn’t get shot or stabbed. Oh, and we won. Anthony Wright would get his knee shredded a few weeks later at Tennessee to put that season in the dumper. Final record: 5-6
- 1999 – ECU 21, USC 3 – <all records of this game and season have been stricken>
Now, there is no lesson here, no moral of the story. I still look at this game on this year’s schedule and think “win”. I feel much better about that in 2011 than I did in the 90’s, because many years have passed, and the players and coaches are different. Thankfully, much different. And much better.
I just needed a little purging of my soul to get ready for Saturday.