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A whirlwind of a season finally paid off for South Carolina on Saturday night, as the Gamecocks pulled off the upset over Auburn to became bowl eligible. If you’ve paid attention to what has transpired in Columbia this season, you know that getting to this point was no easy task. Now, the hard work has paid off, and they still have one more game left, against in-state rival Clemson.
We are talking about a team that was playing their third string quarterback after the starter and second team quarterback went down due to injury. So, the Gamecocks were rolling with transfer quarterback Jason Brown, a guy who fans had to research after being named the starter. Now, after solid performances over the last few weeks, Brown has become a well known name in Columbia, thanks to his gritty play on the field.
The offense hasn’t been the only success story either. The defense has bought into a system that was undoubtedly tough to rely on earlier in the season. But this group never wavered, even after a tough loss at Missouri two weeks ago. Shane Beamer talked about this group bouncing back last week and achieving their goal of buying into the program.
“So proud. I’m so proud to be their coach. It wasn’t pretty last week out at Missouri, and that was a long bus ride back to St. Louis after the game to get on a plane and fly back. That was a really, really hurt bunch on Sunday, but they just come right back to work.”
This group of seniors have faced a lot of adversity since January, after coming off the Covid season and a new staff taking over. Beamer knows what they’ve been through and how tough the last year has been for this group. But to his credit, Beamer has gotten his players to buy into what he’s been preaching, believing that his plan would work if they trusted him and this coaching staff. So it wasn’t a surprise when the South Carolina head coach got a bit emotional talking about this group and what they mean to the program.
“I met with them back in January, and I can still remember sitting in the staff room and telling them, ‘Look, you don’t know me, I don’t know you. We’re gonna work together, but you’re the older guys. This isn’t some two- or three-year rebuild we’re building for the future. We’re gonna win now. It’s not fair to you guys to not.’ They bought in, and you know, those guys, Jabari (Ellis), Jaylan Foster, I mean all those guys, just happy for them too.
“For all the adversity they’ve been through. The coach that recruited them to South Carolina is not their head coach now. For them to be going out with the sixth win and an opportunity to get to seven next week, and then to be going to a bowl game, just really happy for them, and very, very proud.”
Beamer showed pure emotion as he ran around the field postgame, hugging all of his players while the crowd was still in the stadium cheering them on. Those are the kind of moments that this group was striving for, and they earned it on Saturday night. The Gamecocks went on a 21-3 run. Even when the Auburn rushing attack was hammering away at them, they never gave into the pressure. We all figured this team would struggle during the season, but they’ve managed to hang in and not give up on each other, which is a testament to their character. Not only have they beaten Florida and Auburn at home, but they still have one more big game left to play in front of their home crowd.
The Gamecocks will play Clemson this Saturday at home, looking to cap off a fantastic first year. South Carolina is getting 11.5 points on FanDuel.
When asked about the future of the program, Beamer made it clear that this was just the beginning of something special and that this team has higher expectations for the future.
“This is just the start. … Like, our goals aren’t to win six games every year and go to a bowl game. We have higher expectations, and this is just the start. But for this to be the Year One, and for us to be sitting here right now, 6-5, when we’re playing our third quarterback of the season, and we lost our middle linebacker in Game Two against Georgia. We had our starting defensive back go down with an injury tonight, our best DB, who’s leading the SEC in pass breakups, he goes down in the first quarter. But next man up, and man, just Marcellas Dial and Darius Rush and those guys, it’s a fun group.”
As he walked off the field on Saturday night, Shane latched onto his dad, longtime Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, and the two took it all in together. The father looked over at his son with a big smile, as they embraced. These were the moments that the elder Beamer had always dreamt of for his son.
It doesn’t get much better than that, as the Gamecocks future is starting to look a bit brighter.