I know it was Southern Miss, I know it was Conference USA, and yes I know it was the first game of the season. But for Gamecock nation those are whispers in the wind from naysayers and the purple clad tiger cubs up the road. Expectations, hope, and disappointment are a common place for Carolina football fans. Year in and year out we proudly exclaim this is the year and year in and year out our world comes crashing down on a gloomy October day. Why should 2010 be any different? Why is it time to hop on the bandwagon of Cocky pride? Because this is the year!
You are not allowed to be a true fan of a team unless you hold some bias. If the first words out of a sports fan’s mouth are “I am not biased” then he is either not a fan or he is bold face lying. Believing in the University of South Carolina is a tough road to travel; in fact I admire the fan base more than any in the world for sticking by a team that heart wrenchingly disappoints you every year. Why should the fans of the garnet and black get excited this year after just one game? Because they finally showed the promise fans have been looking for through the past five seasons under Spurrier. Like stated before, I am a fan and yes I do hold some bias.
Two words: Stephen Garcia. Finally, after what seems like a decade, the highly touted recruit with more off field problems than the entire Tar Heel football team, answered the call. It has taken almost four years, multiple arrests, suspensions from the team and the university, complete embarrassments from Spurrier, and multiple quarterback competitions, but Garcia became a starting quarterback last night and a leader ready to win. Garcia played with a poise last night that we have only seen glimpses of. He wasn’t out there focusing on making plays with his feet, hitting the deep route, or not screwing up; he focused on doing what was necessary to win a football game. Garcia finally sees the big picture, the picture that Spurrier has been stomping into his head for four years. Garcia realizes he is in charge, he is the key and it is through his management and leadership that we will win football games.
Garcia wasn’t the only positive. The team has dealt with a lot of distractions through the offseason and key players were missing from last night’s game. Instead of laying an egg and playing like a team affected by the NCAA’s inactions, which once again proves the NCAA doesn’t solely value the student athlete, they came out and dominated. The defense flew to the ball and let the crowd hear the hits. The offense marched up and down the field through the air and on the ground. The penalties were held in check and the emotions were flying high. They played with a swagger generally never seen; there was a pride on that field I had never glimpsed. The Gamecocks never look sharp in their first game; they never come out with their heads in check. For the team to play as one, and to win the way they did under the circumstances, it proved to me this is a new team, a new pride, and a new decade.
The Gamecock faithful deserve a memorable and exciting season; there isn’t a fan base out there that deserves it more. There is more to be excited about than the fact we deserve it. The team I witnessed last night was exploding with talent. Stephen Garcia has already been addressed, but he deserves to be congratulated again on finally displaying the necessities of winning. The running backs were very impressive. Six different players lined up in the backfield and carried the ball and each brought something to the table that opposing teams will have to prepare for. There was speed running, power running, and an attitude expressing “we will run through you or around you, it doesn’t matter because you can’t stop us.”Not only do the running backs deserve the credit, but the offensive line contributed to that attitude as well. Nine different players caught a pass and five different receivers averaged 10 yards or more per catch. 23 different players made a tackle and the defense forced two turnovers. Special teams were solid; there were no missed field goals, no big returns, and fantastic punting.
Since I began following the Gamecocks, the season opener has always been exciting but it has never been fulfilling. There was never a sincere feeling that this team really has what it takes. Like stated before I realize we were playing Southern Miss, but if you know anything about Carolina football you know we always play to our talent level. The Gamecocks took the field last night and left no doubt in the way they stormed to victory. There was no doubt in Southern Miss’ mind, no doubt in the telecaster’s minds, no doubt in the team’s mind, and for once no doubt in us, the fan’s minds. The year is 2010; it is the start of a new decade, a new Stephen Garcia, and a new University of South Carolina Football team. For once Gamecock fans, it is ok to believe and yes this is the year!