The history with ECU
Unlike many of the teams on South Carolina’s schedule, the Gamecocks don’t have a long, storied history of interesting games against East Carolina. At least, not that come to mind immediately. But I did a little digging and found some pretty cool nuggets in the series against the Pirates that I wanted to pass along.
I only specifically remembered two games against ECU, the game last year and a loss in 1999, the 13th of our 21 consecutive losses that spanned two seasons. I was surprised to find that we’ve actually played East Carolina 16 times in our history, compiling an 11-5 record against them. The first matchup came in Columbia in 1977. South Carolina played host to the Pirates again in 1984, and the two teams met every year between then and 1997 with the exception of 1995. East Carolina has actually won consecutive matchups against the Gamecocks twice in the series (1990-91 and 1994-96), while Carolina’s longest winning streak is at eight games (1977-90).
A little Black Magic
The most intriguing of the matchups from Carolina’s perspective came in 1984. Longtime Gamecock fans will recognize 1984 as the Black Magic season that, until last year’s 11-win performance, was the best year in school history. South Carolina started the season with a 31-24 victory over The Citadel on a last-minute touchdown pass. Two weeks later, the Gamecocks defeated #12 Georgia 17-10 at home and made their first appearance in the national polls. The week before the matchup with ECU, Carolina went on the road and scored an improbable 36-32 victory over national powerhouse Notre Dame (coached by Lou Holtz) in a game that saw the fourth quarter begin with the Gamecocks trailing 26-14.
Entering the matchup against the Pirates, the Gamecocks boasted a 6-0 record and were ranked #9–the program’s first ever top-ten national ranking. The team responded with a 42-20 victory, led by its most prolific offensive output of the season. The Gamecocks racked up 559 yards of total offense in the game, including 273 yards and a whopping four touchdowns on the ground. The offense added two passing touchdowns and 286 yards on just 13 completions, an average of 22 yards per pass.East Carolina ran 20 more plays than the Gamecocks (87-67), yet amassed only 379 yards of offense. Perhaps the most telling statistic of the game were the yards per offensive play: 8.3 for the Gamecocks, 5.7 for the Pirates. The Carolina secondary, part of its feared Fire Ant defense, forced four interceptions in what was arguably the team’s most complete performance of the season.
Finishing the season
The Notre Dame win one week before the matchup with the Pirates may have been the most historical triumph of the Black Magic season, but the victory over Florida State two weeks later was pretty sweet, too. 75,000 fans, a Williams-Brice Stadium record at the time, watched the fifth-ranked Gamecocks defeat #11 Florida State 38-26, aided in part by this 99-yard kickoff return by Raynard Brown to open the second half.
After attaining a #2 national ranking, the Gamecocks were shocked on the road by Navy. The last week of the season, however, the Gamecocks came from behind to defeat Clemson, driving 84 yards to tie the game at 21 with 54 seconds remaining. The extra point was missed, but a penalty gave the Gamecocks a second chance, and the team won its tenth game by the slimmest of margins, 22-21.
The USC Sports Information Department estimates that 40,000-50,000 Gamecock fans made the trip to Jacksonville to watch the #7 Gamecocks square off against #9 Oklahoma State in the 1984 Gator Bowl. Oklahoma State went on an 11-play, 88-yard drive to score a touchdown with 1:04 remaining in the game, winning by a 21-14 margin. The setback, however, didn’t stop Carolina from eclipsing its previous record for wins in a season by two on their way to a 10-2 record that still brings smiles to the faces of Gamecock fans everywhere.
Photo Credit: Wolf Bytes