Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium quietly becoming the SEC’s toughest venue

NCAA Football: Georgia at South Carolina

Without looking, which SEC football program has the longest home winning streak?

If you guessed Alabama or LSU, try again.

Here’s a pregame clue:

Under a Carolina sky I stand, under the palmettos and beneath the crescent moon. I am a structure forged from concrete and time. As strong as our pride, as enduring as our passion, tradition originates from my core. History echoes through my walls. For seven decades, I’ve given rise to legends and today, I await the next one. I am not a desert, but a Sandstorm builds within me. I am a sea of garnet and black with a sound that doesn’t just pierce the air, it penetrates your soul. I am the place where every odyssey starts with 2001. Where your wakeup call is our battle cry. Trespassers beware, to enter, is to sacrifice. It is Saturday in South Carolina …

Welcome to Williams-Brice.

South Carolina’s won 15 straight games at home, second nationally behind 24 from Northern Illinois.

The Gamecocks haven’t lost at home in two years, a list of victims that includes 2011 ACC champion Clemson and a 35-7 beating of fifth-ranked Georgia in 2012 in front of a record crowd of 85,199. I took a ton a flack in the preseason for putting the Gamecocks’ home digs No. 2 overall in the SEC’s five toughest venues list, but South Carolina’s one victory shy of setting a school-record Saturday night against Florida for most consecutive home victories.

Ask SEC juggernaut Alabama how difficult it has become to win in the Cockpit. Nick Saban’s top-ranked Crimson Tide saw their 19-game winning streak end in 2010 before South Carolina’s current dominance at home began. That nationally-televised, College GameDay setting was the Gamecocks’ arrival moment under Steve Spurrier and since, they’ve been nearly unbeatable on their own turf.

Related: Ranking the SEC’s 14 football stadiums

So what is it that makes the concrete monstrosity on Bluff Road so intimidating? Confidence, productivity and Sandstorm. Senior quarterback Connor Shaw’s been brilliant in “big-game garnet” with a sparkling 14-0 career record at home that began with a 311-yard, four-touchdown outing against Kentucky on Oct. 8, 2011 just before Stephen Garcia’s dismissal.

This season, the Gamecocks have given opponents an early dose of towel-waving theatrics with 79 first-half points in four homes games. Big plays in the first quarter have become the norm, usually a long touchdown pass once Mike Davis gets it going on the ground. South Carolina’s only trailed twice (7-0 to Miss. St. and 3-0 to UAB) in its last 11 games at Williams-Brice.

Related: SEC East scenarios for the last three weeks

With the introduction of the $6.5 million “Beast Board” in 2012, the gameday experience in Columbia, S.C., became one of college football’s most underrated. Recent renovations to the adjacent farmer’s market has transformed the area surrounding the stadium from bland to top-notch, an ideal spot for tailgating, pre-game festivities and the Gamecock Walk.

Once inside, especially at night, the capacity crowd’s a rabid bunch that’s waited several decades for South Carolina to be a Top 25 mainstay and consistent SEC East threat. Saturday’s game against Florida is the Gamecocks’ fifth straight home sellout and could reach new highs for sound at kickoff if Auburn beats Georgia earlier in the afternoon.

Related: Four SEC teams competing for BCS bid

Depending on how seasons shake out at Mizzou and Auburn, the Gamecocks could be playing for a BCS at-large berth on Senior Night against No. 8 Clemson on Nov. 30. South Carolina’s won four straight in the rivalry series — three coming against a ranked Tigers squad — and Shaw would have a chance to exit the program with the school’s wins record for a quarterback.

Photo Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • Willy B gets louder than yall think. About to be two straight years undefeated there!!!

  • Can you hear me now!
    3 more wins and we go bowling! That beside the State Bowl Clemson at Carolina! Is it going to be 5 in a row! wait and see Nov 30 !! Go Gamecocks!!!

  • Regardless of which side you sit on at Willy-B, the experience is phenomenal! Get goosebumps just thinking about how electric the atmosphere will be along Bluff Rd and inside the stadium, especially if UGA loses to Auburn.

  • When I lived in Cola and had season’s tickets, win or lose, W-B was magical for me and my buds on Saturdays – as are most SEC venues! It took me a while before I felt like we ‘belonged’ in the SEC (a lot has to be earned – kind of like Mizzou is doing this year), but when I watch Carolina on TV now, wow, it sure is exciting as hell!

    Go Cocks!

  • This stadium has always been at the top of my list for stadiums I’d like to visit in the SEC

  • Jordan Hare is better.

    • Exit51, have you ever been to Williams-Brice ? Auburn is a destination,but worth the trip and visitors get to see a beautiful campus. Unfortunately the logistics for Williams-Brice didn’t allow for on campus construction. But the Gamecocks have turned it into an amazing venue with the state fair next door ,the “Cock-a-boose” & multiple points of access. But for any visitors it would take more than a mere “tour” to see all the beauty & history of The University of South Carolina.

  • I guess a lot has changed in the last decade. I went there in 2000 and wasn’t all that impressed. It was a nice stadium, but the atmosphere was not comparable at all to Knoxville, Gainesville, or Athens. I was surprised to see how long their home win streak was as well, since I remember them barely squeaking out wins against Navy in 2011 and Tennessee last year. I’ll be doubly impressed if they can keep this streak alive much longer, with Clemson comming to town at the end of the month and A&M, Georgia, and Missouri all in the first month of the 2014 season.

    • Williams-Brice is definitely different than it used to be. It started when Spurrier took over. He has preached crowd noise when on defense. Also, between the Brice intro, 2001, and Sandstorm, the 5-minutes leading up to kickoff is an adrenaline rush for our fans. That intro video is like flipping a switch from moderately loud to a deafening roar.

      • I credit it to the program reviews the university performed following the 2010 season. Out of that sprung the upgrades to the marching band, the Beast Board, and the farmer’s market renovations, among other things. That “Welcome to Williams-Brice” video is the perfect compliment to 2001 and keeps the crowd live from kickoff to end.

    • Steve Holt AKA “THE OSTRICH” .You must have your head buried? 1st never pull against an SEC team unless it impacts your team, Clem’s son has played one currently ranked team and got SPANKED at home . They are easily overrated ! I was happy to see Lane Muffin get his just rewards as I thought he hosed the “VOLS” . And yes ,things do change…..

  • At times.the atmosphere is almost spooky. Given the right opponent and circumstances….the Cockpit is savage.

  • Best football experience you can find in the country. We ran Clemson back to the upstate to conclude our 2012 season and the crowd was unbelievable when we thumped Georgia at a late game in 2012. I would imagine we are going to get that same type of crowd this Saturday as the country starts to realize just how hard it is to win at Williams Brice…the Gators will certainly feel it early and often this weekend….go Gamecocks!

  • Northern Illinois played a home game at Soldier Field in 2011 against Wisconsin and lost. This was NOT a neutral site. There was no split-distribution or split-gate. It was a home game and can be confirmed on the NCAA and NIU’s site. Their home streak sits at only 9 entering tonight’s game with Ball State.

  • Anyone who’s followed the Gamecocks for years saw this coming. SC fans have been noted for decades as the most loyal fans in college football (note an average of 75,000 in home attendance during the 21-game losing streak at the turn of the millenium). Give these people something to hope for and they turn outright savage. Aside from dropping that game to Auburn, the Gamecocks’ only other home loss since the start of 2010 was a heartbreaking homecoming rout by Arkansas, though the favor has since been returned.

  • As a USC alum, I can honestly say that Willy B, and the surrounding area, has drastically improved over the past 5 years. My first football game at USC was Spurrier’s first game against UCF in 2005 (I was born and raised in PA). Looking back, even though Gameday was there on that Thursday night, the atmosphere was nothing compared to what we have now. From the Farmer’s Market getting a makeover, the stats and logos on WB’s ramps and sides, to the Beast Board, USC really has an ‘Elite SEC’ feel to it. I have been to Athens, Gainesville, Knoxville, Baton Rouge and Fayetteville, and think each has their own unique thing to offer. Some are probably better than USC (mostly because our stadium is off campus), but I think that we are really underrated when it comes to our stadium and game day experience.

  • That’s right , “If it ain’t swayin we ain’t play’n” !!

  • If it ain’t swayin’, we ain’t playin’! I still remember my first game back in the early 80s when we beat SoCal! The place was crazy enough then, now that Spurrier’s built a solid program, it’s crazier far more often!!! There’s few team entrances in the country that rival coming out onto the field, smoke a rollin’, 2001 one blaring in Willy B! I get chills every time I hear it!

  • hey Chelle Odom take a look at this

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