If you are a fan of the Palmetto State’s two nationally ranked teams, Clemson and South Carolina, opening weekend of college football season this year was undoubtedly a long, long trio of days. Even if you’re a fan of just one of the two teams (as most South Carolinians tend to be, favoring one over the other in the usual intra-state rivalry fashion), seeing the other team lose could only be bittersweet knowing your favorite had gone down. But they didn’t just go down. They went down hard. As in — both teams were crushed by their opponents. And they were two of only three nationally ranked teams to fall.
As noted in their Aug. 30 recap of the Clemson vs. Georgia game, the Associated Press reported that the No. 12 (Associated Press Top 25 Preseason poll) Georgia offense was nearly a full-on highlight film for running back Todd Gurley and why he should be handed the Heisman trophy without the preliminaries of an entire college football season. Racking up 293 all-purpose yards, Gurley, a junior who was injured last season, not only ran back a kick for 100 yards, he also averaged 17.2 yards every time he touched the football.
But it didn’t look like a rout (regardless of the final score: Georgia 45, Clemson 21) until the fourth quarter. In fact, Clemson matched the Bulldogs point for point up until halftime (the score: 21-21) and only trailed by a field goal going into the fourth quarter. But then Gurleys two long-distance touchdown runs (one, the final touchdown of the night, for 51 yards), split by a third touchdown by freshman running back Nick Chubbs (a highlight itself of 47 yards).
The game was such a Todd Gurley impacted game that ESPN’s recap labeled it “The Todd Gurley Show.” They also noted that #GurleyForHeisman was a big trender on Twitter for awhile.
Even a die-hard Gamecocks fan and Clemson hater couldn’t take too much pleasure in that fourth-quarter pounding of Clemson’s, given that Georgia is also in the East Division of the SouthEast Conference, giving them a game up on South Carolina, with the two teams meeting in just two weeks.
But South Carolina, ranked No. 9 going into the game, can’t say they kept up with Texas A&M (No. 21) and will no doubt see coach Steve Spurrier regrouping and going back to the old chalkboard for a realligning of South Carolina’s defense. There were headlines across the United States asking, “Johnny who?”, a definite jab at the idea that the Aggies would be a sub-par team without 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, who will make his rookie debut in the NFL this season. The reason for such a line? No other team in history had racked up more yardage against a South Carolina defense. The Texas A&M offense, led by sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill (who had a highlight reel of his own to offer (per ESPN): 44 completed passes out of 60 attempts, totalling 511 yards — breaking Manziel’s single-game passing record), took a big early lead against the Gamecocks and never looked back.
To add insult to injury, the South Carolina football squad fell in front of a home crowd. More: The loss snapped an 18-game home winning streak.
To be sure, it could be shaping up to be a long season for South Carolina (the entire state) football fans. South Carolina not only faces Georgia their third game, but they will face three other ranked SEC teams this season and Clemson at the end of the season. The Clemson Tigers face the No. 1 team in the nation their third game out, Florida State, who won their first game in a hard-fought decision against a young Oklahoma State team. They also are scheduled against a second ranked Atlantic Coast Conference team, North Carolina, the following week. Both the Gamecocks and the Tigers face tough opposition in their respective conferences all year.
Now, if you’re a South Carolina State fan or a Coastal Carolina fan, you might feel a bit better about the weekend. South Carolina State destroyed Benedict College (a Division II school in Columbia) in the Palmetto Capital City Classic 63-0 this weekend and Coastal Carolina rolled over The Citadel (alas, another South Carolina team to go down its first game) 31-16.
And that other nationally ranked team that lost during its opening weekend, the only other to do so? No. 14 Wisconsin gave up 21 points starting in mid-third quarter to lose to No. 13 LSU 28-24.