South Carolina's Top 10 moments of the decade
It was quite an eventful decade for the Gamecocks, who went 78-51, with a 5-3 mark in bowl games. The only years they missed were this season, and the 2015 season when Steve Spurrier stepped down midseason.
South Carolina had 27 NFL Draft picks — at least 1 every season except 2017 — with a high water mark of 6 in 2012.
The Gamecocks were ranked in 6 seasons, with a high of No. 3 by the Associated Press poll in 2012. They won 42 games in the 1st 4 years of the decade.
With that in mind, here are the top 10 moments of the decade:
10. Jake Bentley named starter, saves 2016 season
Following a bye week after a 2-4 start, coach Will Muschamp named Bentley the starting quarterback in 2016 — and he rallied the Gamecocks to a bowl berth.
Bentley’s 1st touchdown pass came midway through the 2nd quarter in a 34-28 win over UMass. It was South Carolina’s 1st touchdown pass in 5 games. Bentley finished 17-for-26 for 201 yards passing and 2 touchdown throws. Bentley was the 3rd quarterback to start for the Gamecocks after his well-documented early enrollment, and he showed plenty of poise for a would-be high school senior. Bentley then led the Gamecocks to a win over Tennessee the next week, which was the biggest win of the Muschamp era until the Georgia upset in 2019.
Bentley went on to become the face of the program, a representative at SEC Media Days, and was on pace to set significant quarterback records until a foot injury in the season opener this season ended his season, and ultimately led to his transfer to Utah.
9. Spurrier beats Clemson a 4th consecutive time, sets wins record
In 2012, South Carolina beat Clemson for a 4th consecutive time, 27-17, and Spurrier won his 65th game in 8 seasons, which passed Rex Enright for most victories by a South Carolina coach. The Gamecocks reached 10 wins for a 2nd straight season, a 1st in program history. There was an interesting footnote to the game, too.
Backup QB Dylan Thompson passed for 3 touchdowns only because starter Connor Shaw sprained his foot the week before against Wofford. Jadeveon Clowney also had 4.5 sacks, and set the school record with 13 for the season.
8. The Hit heard ’round the world
Remember The Hit from the Outback Bowl? That’s how most people refer to it. On Jan. 1, 2013, midway through the 4th quarter of the Outback Bowl, DL Jadeveon Clowney hit Michigan RB Vincent Smith just as Vincent collected the handoff to his chest. Smith’s helmet popped off, and one of the greatest hits in college football history was born. Seemingly in the same motion, Clowney then recovered the fumble he caused.
Lost in the memories of The Hit is a 12-point 4th quarter that sprung the Gamecocks to a 33-28 victory. The fumble recovery by Clowney set up Connor Shaw’s TD pass to Ace Sanders for a 27-22 lead.
7. Huge win over Georgia in 2012 when College GameDay visited
This was a big game, at least in the lead up that week as South Carolina was ranked No. 6, and Georgia No. 5, which was enough of a matchup to bring ESPN’s “College GameDay.” Ace Sanders had a 70-yard punt return touchdown en route to a 21-0 1st quarter. The defense then bottled up star freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to 76 yards combined in a 35-7 shellacking.
The Gamecocks’ 10th consecutive victory surpassed a school best set with their 9-0 start in 1984.
6. 2019 upset at Georgia, 3 picks by Israel Mukuamu
A noon kickoff might have caught Georgia snoozing, but ultimately it was 4 turnovers forced by the Gamecocks, including 3 interceptions from Israel Mukuamu.
He returned 1 for a touchdown, and a late missed field goal helped South Carolina hold on to beat No. 3 Georgia 20-17 in double overtime earlier this season.
5. SEC East champs 2010
In Florida, no less, Spurrier and the Gamecocks clinched the 1st SEC East championship in program history behind a dominant game from Marcus Lattimore.
Lattimore ran 40 times for a career-high 212 yards and 3 touchdowns, and QB Stephen Garcia did enough to help the No. 22 Gamecocks upset No. 24 Florida 36-14 to clinch the East.
It was a historic win on many fronts, including just the 2nd W in 19 games against Florida, and it snapped an 0-for-12 streak in Gainesville.
4. 5 in a row vs. Clemson (2013)
Along with the rivalry aspect of this, Connor Shaw moved to 26-5 all-time as a starter and ended his career a perfect 17-0 at home for the Gamecocks. Clemson had never lost 5 consecutive games to their rival in a series that began in 1896. It also meant QB Tajh Boyd was 0-for-4 against the Gamecocks.
3. Hiring Will Muschamp
It was Dec. 6, 2015 when the school officially announced the Muschamp hire. The 44-year-old Muschamp came from being Auburn’s defensive coordinator after he was fired after 4 seasons as head coach at Florida. He became the 2nd consecutive Florida coach to hold South Carolina’s permanent job, following Spurrier, who left in mid-October after 10-plus seasons in Columbia.
Muschamp’s high-water mark in Gainesville was an 11-3 season in 2012. But he was just 10-13 the next 2 seasons and was let go by Florida. Though the silver lining of his history there was Jim McElwain inherited a quality roster and led the Gators to the SEC East title in his first season.
2. Steve Spurrier retirement
In mid-October of 2015, Spurrier surprised the college football world as reports of his immediate retirement leaked out.
It was the worst season for Spurrier in 23 seasons in the SEC as the Gamecocks were 2-4 and 0-4 in the SEC. He left in the middle of his 11th season in Columbia. It was not a complete surprise, outside of the timing, as Spurrier considered the previous December after the Gamecocks went 6-6 in the regular season. But then they beat Miami in the Independence Bowl, and that seemed to give him new coaching life.
Shawn Elliott was named interim coach to finish the season.
1. Alabama upset in 2010
In a game that is still remembered for its shocking nature, Stephen Garcia threw 3 touchdown passes, Alshon Jeffery caught 2 TD passes, and Marcus Lattimore scored 3 times as the No. 19 Gamecocks sent shockwaves through college football by beating No. 1 Alabama 35-21.
Garcia was efficient passing, going 17-for-20 for 201 yards and 1 interception. Alabama QB Greg McElroy threw for a career-high 315 yards but was sacked 7 times.