The team's plane was scheduled to arrive in Columbia at 8 p.m.,
but it didn't land until 11. Five thousand South Carolina
football fans, chanting and cheering in the chilly January
night, barely noticed the delay. They'd waited 102 years to
welcome home a bowl winner, so what was another couple of hours?
"There were so many people, you can't imagine,'' says senior
running back Stanley Pritchett. "It seemed like the whole city
of Columbia.'' The turnout certainly surprised coach Brad Scott,
who was finishing his first year as the Gamecock coach after 11
seasons as a Florida State assistant. "I had no idea how big a
deal the win was to the South Carolina fans until it was over,''
he says. "For me and most of my staff, coming from Florida
State, where we'd won 11 straight, it was just another bowl
For Gamecock fans, "just another bowl game'' would have meant
just another loss. While no other team in the nation has played
in as many as five bowls without a win, South Carolina was 0-8
and hadn't participated in the postseason since 1988. The
Gamecocks' win over West Virginia in the Carquest Bowl will go
down in history, along with the firing on Fort Sumter, as one of
the state's most memorable battles.
"We'd done something they'd been waiting for forever,'' says
quarterback Steve Taneyhill, who seems to have been leading the
team for just about that long. In '92 he earned the starting job
in midseason as a long-haired, loud-mouthed freshman who took
over an 0-5 team, predicted six wins to finish out the year and
came within one of delivering. Now he's a senior who has
solidified his position in Gamecock lore and lets his play do
most of the talking. He'll be capably backed up by redshirt
freshman Anthony Wright, who Scott says reminds him of his
former Seminole charge Charlie Ward.
Taneyhill will run a hybrid of the fast-break offense Scott
coordinated at Florida State and the Fun 'N' Gun that new
quarterbacks coach John Reaves helped execute at Florida. "It
should be a pretty doggone good combination,'' Scott says. "With
a mixture of the Florida offense and the Florida State offense,
we ought to be able to score some points.''
Some of those points will come courtesy of Pritchett, who became
a tailback on the first day of spring practice after serving at
fullback last season, in which he was the team's leading scorer.
"When you're that big and have the ability to make the first guy
miss, that's what we need at tailback,'' Scott says.
Keeping the opposition from doing the same will be a bigger
challenge. Scott calls Eric Sullivan, a senior defensive tackle,
the hardest worker on the line, and it's a good thing, because
he's the only returning starter there. South Carolina must also
replace two starters in the secondary from a team that finished
in the bottom half of the Southeastern Conference in nearly
every defensive category in 1994. But one returnee, sophomore
free safety Ben Washington, has permanently endeared himself to
the Gamecock faithful: It was his third-quarter interception and
42-yard return that set up South Carolina's winning touchdown in
the Carquest Bowl.
With that victory secured, though, the team knows that scoring
points with the fans may be a bit more challenging now.
"Expectations will be higher than ever,'' Taneyhill says. "We've
got to work our butts off to make sure we don't disappoint.''
COLOR PHOTO: PATRICK MURPHY-RACEY Pritchett (39) & Co. must cope with high expectations. [Stanley Pritchett in game]
THE DATA BOX
Head coach: Brad Scott
Career college record: 7-5
Second year at South Carolina (7-5)
1994 RECORD: 7-5
SEC record: 4-4 (fifth)
L Georgia 24-21
W Arkansas 14-0
W Louisiana Tech 31-6
W at Kentucky 23-9
W at LSU 18-17
L East Carolina 56-42
L Mississippi State 41-36
W at Vanderbilt 19-16
L Tennessee 31-22
L at Florida 48-17
W at Clemson 33-7
W West Virginia 24-21 (Carquest Bowl)
Final '94 ranking: unranked
Lettermen lost: 12
Lettermen returning: 47
Returning starters, offense: 7
Returning starters, defense: 6
Sept. 2 at Georgia
Oct. 28 at Tennessee
Nov. 11 Florida