The game that we’ve been waiting on since 2010 is finally here.
Even though the tune-up game against CSU was not a proper benchmark of where we truly are, the improvements with Ryan Hilinski under center were enough to re-fire up Gamecocks nation, something that the team will desperately need if they hope to come out of Saturday’s game with the win.
As you already know, the last time that Bama visited Columbia, SC, the Gamecocks, led by the likes of Stephen Garcia, Marcus Lattimore, and Alshon Jeffrey, soundly whipped them on the field, and sent them packing.
That game now lives in infamy, and is rightfully considered to be Carolina’s best game ever.
As important as that game was— and still is— sometimes it’s easy to forget the other victories over Alabama throughout the years, one of which is nearly just as historical.
All time, Carolina has only beaten Bama four times.
But what’s truly amazing, is that three of those victories have come since 2000, and the only one that came before that, was a 1993 win that nearly doesn’t count (Bama forfeited, but had the lead at 17-6).
Of those real wins, typically the 2010 one is the easiest one to recall. However, in 2004, a team did the unthinkable, and beat Bama on the road, making it the only time in 9 attempts that Carolina has won a game in Tuscaloosa.
To honor that 2004 team that made their own bit of history in a grudge match that has been mostly lopsided over the years (Bama leads 10-4), here’s a quick look at what went down.
Coach Lou Holtz’s Last Season
In what would be his 6th and final season, hall of fame coach Lou Holtz went a mediocre 6-5, to complete his tenure, finishing with a total record of 33-37.
The 2004 team had serious talent in the form of Syvelle Newton, Demetrius Summers, and Troy Williamson (who was the league’s leading receiver at the time), but fell in close games to Georgia (#3) and Ole Miss (#25), hurting their chances to achieve anything meaningful.
The end of the 2004 season proved to be controversial, to say the least.
After participating in the now infamous Palmetto Brawl (a fight that broke out between Clemson and Carolina during their November, 20th meeting), Holtz made the decision to decline a bowl offer, officially putting an end to a less than remarkable coaching stint.
The only good news that came from that off-season was the hiring of Steve Spurrier.
Rematch Against Bama
Going into the October 2nd matchup, the Gamecocks held the most recent win in the series, a closely contested 15-13 home win in 2001.
Bama, under head coach, Mike Shula, was looking to avenge that loss and bounce back from a tough loss to Arkansas (10-27) a week earlier. After starting the 2004 season 3-0 (all blow out wins), this stumble against the Razorbacks had the team focused and ready to prove a point at home against what they felt was an inferior opponent.
Dondrial Pinkins started the game, but struggled, completing only 2 passes for 32 yards.
The offense sputtered with him under center, so backup quarterback and athletic freak Syvelle Newton was thrust into action (splitting time with Pinkins).
It took a little bit of time (and some solid rushing yards from Summers) but Newton eventually got the offense going and led the team to a 20-3 victory (largest margin of victory for Carolina in the series).
Ironically enough, Newton’s passing stats were no better than Pinkins, securing only 2 completions (and 1 INT) himself, but he did make up for those numbers with what he did with his legs.
Newton’s rushing attack couldn’t be stopped.
He showed flashes of athleticism that would have modern Gamecock fans going crazy on social media.
His effort running the ball worked well, and in the 3rd quarter he scored the only 2 touchdowns of the game.
Without the spark he provided off of the bench, who knows how the game would have turned out.
Newton’s offensive output was not the only story of the day.
Without a highly productive outing for the defense, Bama could have carried the game away easily, especially early.
The Gamecocks looked strong on the road, and held the Bama passing game to only 79 yards and 9 1st downs.
Astoundingly, the defense also kept the Tide from converting a single 3rd or 4th down attempt the entire game.
Not being able to move the chains eventually led to Bama’s demise, and by the time Newton started finding success in the 3rd quarter, Carolina was in total control defensively.
The Tide did rush the ball well at times, which is the only reason that the defense allowed over 200 years in total offense (143 rushing, 79 passing).
However, anytime Bama looked to get back in the game, the Gamecocks would force a turnover.
In the game there were 4 total interceptions.
Tremaine Tyler and Ko Simpson with one each, and Fred Bennett with two.
With the win on the road, the 2004 team did something special.
Yes, the situation was different. That Bama team was not coached by Nick Saban, and they were not the #1 ranked team in the country, but even so, taking down Alabama in Tuscaloosa with a backup quarterback is a feat that should be remembered right along with the 2010 victory.
This Saturday, another backup Quarterback will face-off against the Tide.
For him to find the same successful result that Newton did, it will take a near perfect performance from him, the defense, and every other unit on the field.
With a little luck thrown in, this could end up being another historical game in the making.