Ugly wins are better than pretty losses. That seems to sum up the feeling I am left with after all of our openers under Steve Spurrier. Usually South Carolina opens the college football season on Thursday night, and usually they play an ugly game. However, under SOS, Carolina has also won all those games.
In 2005 Carolina started hot by scoring quickly on their first possession against Central Florida but ended up winning by a pedestrian 24-15. The next season USC started at Mississippi State. This was the game where Cory Boyd told the national tv audience that he was "back like cooked crack." Indeed he was, and South Carolina won without style points, 15-0.
2007 South Carolina didn't begin on Thursday night. They began with a win, a thrilling 28-14 aerial assault against Louisiana Lafayette. In 2008 and 2009 South Carolina played NC State to begin the season. 08 was in Columbia. The final score looks very nice, 34-0, but anyone who was there or watching on tv probably remembers that this was a 13-0 game in the 4th quarter. However, by Carolina opening standards, it was downright poetic.
2009 might have been one of the ugliest openers. South Carolina scored early to take a 7-0 lead, and they didn't score again. NC State managed a field goal and nearly won the game with a Hail Mary at the end. 7-3 can be good football, and the defense played well, but it wasn't much of a game to watch for casual fans.
2010 may be the exception. Southern Miss came to town. After the Whitney-gate there were rumors circulating that many key players hadn't been cleared to play. Either these were false or the players were cleared. The Gamecocks held down the Golden Eagles' high flying (get it?) offense and won comfortably 41-13.
2011's opener was played in Charlotte. Connor Shaw was named the starter over incumbent Stephen Garcia, and USC proceeded to dig itself into a hole. They dug themselves out, but it was very, very ugly for a while there. At the end the scoreboard read 56-37 good guys.
Last season was opened in Nashville against Vanderbilt. Marcus Lattimore fumbled on his first carry back, and Connor Shaw got hurt. Dylan Thompson didn't have his best day, and Shaq Wilson's interception and return may have been the game changing play. In a game they should have won by 10, USC escaped 17-3.
So what does this have to do with Thursday night. First, isn't it nice to recognize how far the program has come? Today we (I) are complaining about the manner in which games have been won, not lamenting how they were lost. Second, there should be some guidance as to what we should expect Thursday. Carolina doesn't typically come flying out of the gate like, say, Alabama does, but like Alabama, Carolina usually wins. Third, the defense is usually ahead of the offense. That could change this year, but I'm not betting against history.
We can expect the game to be ugly and there to be some turnovers. We can expect the defense to out play the offense. We can expect that national commentary to be "perhaps South Carolina isn't a Top Ten team, or the Gamecocks are going to have to play a lot better than this later in the season." However, none of that will matter as long as USC gets the W, and if history is any guide, they will.