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Valiant Effort

With an injury-depleted lineup and the prospect of facing Tim Tebow and the No. 1 Florida Gators, many wrote off the possibility of the South Carolina defense having an impact on Saturday’s game.

After the Gators scored in a minute and a half on their opening drive, even those who had thought it possible probably gave up hope.

But the defense rebounded and put in a valiant performance that kept the chance of an upset win alive for much of the game.

“I’m proud of the effort of our players, especially our defensive guys,” said South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier. “Our guys hung in there and fought the whole game.”

“I was proud of the effort,” said Assistant Head Coach Ellis Johnson. “From a character and effort standpoint, these kids have really got something to them. To have as little age and experience as we do and they still respond the way they do…they came back out and really fought hard.”

Five different times in the game, the Gators either started or made it into South Carolina territory and came away with no points.

“They had good field position and the defense responded and made some good plays,” said defensive end Clifton Geathers.

While it’s hard to see victories on a stat sheet, the Gamecocks put in their best defensive performance against the Gators in the last three years. Florida finished with 339 yards, nearly 100 yards below their season average.

“This was a very emotional game with the veterans out there and all the players were just trying to play their best and show their capability,” said Geathers. “”I think we did great as a team. We had 100% effort. We need to find a way to turn it up to 110.”

Geathers responded with a big game, finishing the night with seven tackles, one sack and 4.5 tackles for loss.

“I’m real proud of him, Clifton has played and practiced hurt the past few weeks,” said Johnson. “I’m really proud of the way he’s played and practiced.”

“I felt great – felt like I turned it up to a different level,” said Geathers.

Youth and inexperience has impacted decision-making at times by the South Carolina defense. Injuries on the defensive side of the ball have also affected the Gamecocks’ ability to maintain a cohesive unit.

“It’s not an effort or commitment thing, it’s been because we can’t keep a consistent lineup,” said Johnson. “We don’t have the same 14 or 15 guys on the field week after week so they become gelled together. Every time we go into a game, there’s a safety looking over at another safety and they’re talking to someone they didn’t talk to the week before. It’s a lot like a pitcher and a catcher. Those things make a difference.”

With the SEC season complete, it’s time for the Gamecocks to look ahead to the annual matchup with in-state rival Clemson on November 28 at Williams-Brice Stadium.

“We’re going to play even harder for the Clemson game – no doubt about it,” said Geathers.

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Historic Season Continues

You can cross off “1st NCAA win” from the list of things to do for the Gamecock women’s soccer program.

In a season that can already be defined as historic, South Carolina added one more accomplishment Friday night as they showed no signs of bowing to the pressure and expectation of being a national seed and cruised to a 4-0 win against Davidson in the 1st Round of the NCAA Tournament.

“We wanted to take advantage of being at home and we did,” said South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith. “This team learned how to battle last week against some of the best teams in the country and they’re ready to face any challenge ahead.”

After two seasons of exiting the tournament in the first round, the team mindset going into Friday night’s game was one of perseverance and determination.

“We knew Davidson was going to come out and give us a run for our money,” said forward Kayla Grimsley. “No matter what we have to fight for 90 minutes. You don’t play for 10 or 15, you play for 90.”

That never-say-die attitude worked well for South Carolina in the team’s run to the program’s first SEC Championship. Each additional achievement – the school record for wins, the first conference title, earning the first national seed – continues to fuel the Gamecocks and set the bar higher.

“I think we exceeded some people’s expectations this season,” said Grimsley. “We’re playing for ourselves and this school and state, we’re going to prove people wrong over and over again.”

“They’ve stepped up, they’ve the PKs in the net, they’ve made the game-winning save,” said Smith. “They’re put in pressure situations and they are taking that and turning around and being the best that they can be. I couldn’t be more proud of how they’re facing these challenges.”

While the current players continue to forge into new territory for Gamecock women’s soccer, they are inspiring former members of the program as well. Smith brought former Gamecock player Angela Austin (’96-’99) to speak to the team after the win.

“I wanted them to hear how much they’ve affected everyone that follows our program,” said Smith. “She told them how much it meant to her and how much it inspired her as a person to see what this team is doing. The effect that they’ve had and they way that they play and act and represent the university – I’m proud of that.”

In addition to earning the program’s first postseason win, the Gamecocks brought out the biggest crowd in South Carolina women’s soccer history as 3,813 fans were in attendance.

“The fans that came out made a huge difference and we always say that we don’t lose at The Graveyard,” said goalkeeper Mollie Patton. “The fans really made the home field a huge advantage.”

The Gamecocks return to the pitch Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. for a 2nd-round matchup with Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights dispatched Duke in the early match 2-0.

“I felt like Duke had more possession, but [Rutgers] took their chances,” said Smith. “Our team will need to be on top of their game and bring our best to be ready.”

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Frustrating Day

One singular emotion could be seen on the faces of the Gamecocks as they walked off the field Saturday afternoon – frustration.

After silencing the Razorback faithful on the opening play of the second half with an 80 yard score, South Carolina could not capitalize on the momentum. The third quarter spiraled away from the Gamecocks as Arkansas scored 16 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter en route to a 33-16 win.

“We’re really frustrated right now. We really killed ourselves,” said defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye. “Arkansas finished the game and we didn’t.”

“It’s very frustrating for the team,” said quarterback Stephen Garcia. “We’re not playing to where our capability is.”

“We’ve got to get better,” said center Garrett Anderson. “We’re not executing the way we’re supposed to.”

Despite the outcome, the Gamecocks showed flashes of success and were able to pick up yardage on Arkansas. Finishing off drives remained a problem for South Carolina as drives stalled out due to penalties, turnovers or execution.

“We felt like we could move the ball every series,” said Garcia. “We just killed ourselves. That’s another frustrating part – we’re hurting ourselves.”

Outside of two big plays, the Gamecock defense played well in the first half and limited the SEC’s top offense to 202 yards. The absence of four original starters (Travian Robertson, Rodney Paulk, Cliff Matthews and Chris Culliver) affected the squad in the second half.

“Physically, we couldn’t hold up once they got the running game going,” said assistant head coach Ellis Johnson. “We’ve reached a point depth wise where we’re always worried about that [wearing down].”

“Injuries impact the defense, impact the team period,” said Ajiboye. “The people that were out there – we just made mistakes and we got to deal with it on Monday. We’re just frustrated because we fell short.”

Garcia said the team believes execution is the key to turning things around.

“We’re definitely capable – we just need to execute,” he said. “I’ve got to get the guys more motivated and start moving faster in practice. We have to translate that onto the field.”

Two chances remain for the Gamecocks to halt the late season slide and finish the season strong. No. 1 Florida and archrival Clemson come to Williams-Brice Stadium this month.

“You have to play your best to beat a No. 1 team,” said Garcia. “We just have to go out there and do it this week. We have to go out there and play our game.”

“We’ve just got to turn it around and make plays,” said linebacker Eric Norwood. “We need to go out there and play ball.”

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Football TV Ratings

Just found this bit of data – the South Carolina/Alabama football game was the highest-rated game that weekend. 3.3 million people viewed the Gamecocks battle the Crimson Tide. Strong exposure for South Carolina football!

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Vanderbilt Radio Highlight Montage

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Remembering the 1969 Gamecock Football Team – ACC Champs

As part of the Homecoming festivities this weekend, the 1969 Gamecock football team will be honored as this is the 40th anniversary of the team’s ACC Championship. The Gamecocks captured the league title with a perfect 6-0 mark, including a 27-13 win over Clemson in the regular season finale. The ’69 Gamecock squad finished the season with an overall record of 7-4. Led by captains Don Buckner and Pat Watson, coach Paul Dietzel’s team faced off against Jim Carlen’s West Virginia Mountaineers in the Peach Bowl, the Gamecocks second bowl appearance in history.

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Gamecock Gameday Tailgates

Got some photos from Gamedays that you want to share? Post them to our Flickr page here!

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