Today we finish our look at the Top 10 Highlights from the 2011-12 academic year. If you missed the first half of the list you can view it here.
#5 Draft Day 2012
All football players dream of the NFL. For a few, that dream becomes a reality on draft day. For South Carolina, 2012 was a great year. USC had two draft picks taken in the first round and three in the top 45. Overall Carolina had 6 players drafted. Stephon Gilmore was taken with the 10th pick, and Melvin Ingram with the 18th. In the second round Alshon Jeffery was taken by the Bears. Antonio Allen, Travian Robertson and Rokevious Watkins were all drafted as well. South Carolina's program has reached the point where it can not only produce 6 draft picks in a single year, but it can still expect to maintain its success after they are gone. Gamecocks should be proud of what all 6 did in Columbia and look forward to what they'll do in the NFL.
#4 Football defeated Georgia 45-42
Georgia had just lost to Boise State, and South Carolina had just beaten East Carolina in less than impressive fashion. The winner of this game was going to be in the driver's seat in the SEC East. The Gamecocks turned in highlight after highlight in Athens. Melvin Ingram stole the show by scoring two touchdowns: one on a fake punt and the other on a fumble. For the second straight year Marcus Lattimore played one of his most productive games against the Bulldogs, and Carolina left Athens 2-0 on the season and 2-0 against Georgia the last two years.
#3 Football defeated Clemson 34-13
Many years this could be #1 on the list. This year it's not, and hopefully other Clemson wins won't be number one either. Coach Spurrier has preached that the way to become the best team in the state isn't to focus on the competition. It's to focus on being the best in the SEC, and the rest will take care of itself. That was evident on a November Saturday night in Columbia.
The Tigers had a new offensive coordinator who had run all over the ACC, and they were supposed to do the same in Williams-Brice. Simply put, that didn't happen. South Carolina's defense dominated the game, and the offense relied on their running game to out class the outmatched Tiger defense. By the 4th quarter Carolina fans were relaxing, and Clemson fans were well on their way up I-26. The win marked the third year in a row Carolina has beaten Clemson. Those wins have come by margins of 17, 22 and 21 points.
#2 Football defeated Nebraska 31-13
This game was a highlight for many reasons. First and foremost it was #11. No USC football team had ever won 11 games in a season (though in fairness many only played 11 games or fewer). This win was objective proof of the success Steve Spurrier has had in Columbia.
This game was also a win against a major, national program. Some Gamecock fans aren't overly impressed with out of conference powers given the powers we regularly face in conference, but Nebraska is one of the giants. They haven't been as successful lately as they were before, but they are still big time.
This was the first trip to the Capital One Bowl. Outside of the BCS, this is arguably the biggest and best bowl game around. If the Gamecocks didn't get to the BCS, they won the next best thing. It was a great win that filled the fan base with good feelings for the long off season.
#1 Gamecocks win 22 straight NCAA games
This didn't only happen last academic year. The winning streak was 3 years in the making. South Carolina's baseball team made history in 2010 when they won the national title. They did it again in 2011 by winning the title, and going undefeated in the post season to do it. In 2012, they continued winning and eventually ran their post season streak to 22 straight games. That streak may never be matched, and mathematically it cannot be reached until 2014. It will be the enduring record that defined the last 3 years.
All of the games were memorable but a few points stand out more than others. The Gamecocks defeated Clemson 4 times during the streak and ended their season twice. Carolina eliminated 10 teams during the streak. They won 4 games against #1 national seeds. During those three post seasons that encompassed the streak, Carolina finished 30-4 with 3 regional titles, 3 super-regional championships and two national titles.
Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.