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Lancaster area Gamecock fans rank the University of South Carolina’s 36-14 comeback win over Florida in The Swamp as a landmark win for the USC football program.
Florida head coach Urban Meyer had called for a “blue-out” – Florida fans decked out in UF blue for the game, but as it turned out, the result was a Gamecock blowout.
The No. 22 Gamecocks’ first-ever win at the fabled Swamp gave USC the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title and a bid in the SEC championship title game against Auburn on Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. in Atlanta.
“This was fantastic,” said Lancaster County Gamecock Club president Glenda Powell.
The Gamecocks were coming off a subpar 41-20 home loss to Arkansas and matters looked bad early as the Gators’ Andre Dubose returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a lightning-quick 7-0 Gators’ lead.
“I was very surprised the way the game turned out after the Arkansas game and the way they played,” Powell said. “Thankfully, they kept playing.”
Powell noted the team effort.
“As long as the offense kept the short passes and getting the ball to Marcus (Lattimore) and the defense played well, we were in control,” she said.
Lattimore, the USC freshman ace, ran for 212 yards and scored three touchdowns.
Jerry Witherspoon, a 1974 USC football captain and Carolina graduate, said the key was the Gamecocks didn’t panic after Florida’s early score.
Witherspoon, who attended the game, said he had an idea USC was ready early on.
“I saw the team come in and they had their game faces on,” Witherspoon said. “They were all about business.”
Witherspoon said the Gamecocks came right back after the Florida score to produce points.
“That, to me, was an urgent call, that we had to step it up and we did with a drive for points, a field goal, on our first possession.
“That showed that we could move the football and the defense did its part and our momentum grew from there,” Witherspoon said. “Once we got the lead, we had ball control for the whole game. When you have ball control, you control the game.
“That was pretty impressive,” he said. When we have a big stage, it seems we play well.”
Ronnie Adams, a 29-year member of the Gamecock Club, said USC “put it all together.”
“After that opening kickoff, they settled down and came right back down and got the field goal to establish themselves,” Adams said. “Marcus Lattimore had a big game, the line blocked well and Stephen Garcia managed the game at quarterback. He was efficient.”
Garcia was solid in engineering the offense with a touchdown and 15-22 passing for 156 yards and no interceptions.
“They just dominated,” said Adams, who went to Columbia after the game to join in the post-game celebration at Williams-Brice Stadium where the team returned early Sunday morning to a hero’s welcome.
“I’m proud of the way they played – they played like they wanted to win,” he said. “We’ve been waiting on this all of our lives.”
Witherspoon said the win shows the Gamecock have “turned the corner.”
“This is good for the Gamecock nation,” he said. “It takes our program to another level.”
Gerald Parker, a Gamecock Club member since 1965, said the Gamecocks’ win is a boost for several reasons.
“It helps in recruiting because it shows those blue-chip, in-state recruits, like Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery, what we can do,” Parker said. “It helps recruiting. It’s an accomplishment and a good feat because it’s never been done.
“It ranks right up there with the biggest wins in school history,” he said. “It gives us the East title and a chance to play for the SEC championship and the chance to gain bigger prizes.”