The Citadel-South Carolina Preview
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina hasn't lost to a lower division team in 25 years. But plenty of people in the stands Saturday will remember the last shocking upset when the Gamecocks take on The Citadel.
The Bulldogs beat South Carolina on a touchdown with 22 seconds left in 1990 in a 38-35 win. Gamecocks running backs coach Everette Sands remembers it well. He threw the block that allowed quarterback Jack Douglas to score.
''That's a day you never forget. That's a day special for Citadel history. Sometimes, when teammates get back together, we still talk about it,'' said Sands, who stressed he won't have any mixed feelings Saturday because he knows the Gamecocks pay his bills.
South Carolina (3-7) is determined to not let history repeat itself. Mired in its worst season since 2003, a loss could bring back the echoes of an even worse time, like when the Gamecocks lost 21 games in a row in 1999 and 2000.
Free safety Isaiah Johnson said he reminded the team this week even with almost no chance for a bowl game, they need to still take pride to avoid an upset that would be talked about for another generation.
''We're playing for the name on the front and on the back of the jersey,'' Johnson said.
This year's Citadel's team is pretty good. The Bulldogs (7-3) finished tied for the Southern Conference title with Chattanooga, but lost the automatic playoff bid to the Mocs.
Citadel coach Mike Houston said he thinks his team has earned a bid to the FCS playoffs, but he said he won't be like crosstown rival Charleston Southern who plans to rest key players some against No. 3 Alabama this week to save them for the postseason.
''I only know one way to prepare for a game and that is to go win it,'' Houston said.
Some other things to watch as The Citadel visits South Carolina:
TRIPLE OPTION MAYHEM: The Citadel is averaging 344 yards running a game with its option attack. South Carolina is next-to-last in the Southeastern Conference allowing 202 yards a game. Like most option teams, The Citadel relies on a blocking scheme where offensive lineman make contact between the fete and the thighs, taking out the legs of the defense and sending them to the ground where they can't chase the play. The blocks can agitate and wear down an unprepared defense quickly. ''You can't simulate a cut block with a bag or a dummy or something like that. You've really got to go after it and have a defender diving and throwing themselves through your thighs, through your lower half to get the feel for it,'' Gamecocks interim coach Shawn Elliott said.
LOOKING AHEAD: Both teams have some important events happening after Saturday. South Carolina closes the season hosting its biggest rival No. 1 Clemson. While a bowl game seems doubtful even with the potential of 5-7 teams making the cut, beating the high flying Tigers and possibly costing them a playoff bid would take a losing season and make it one of the most memorable in school history. The Citadel will be watching TV on Sunday morning to see if it gets into the FCS playoffs for the first time since 1992.
GIANT-KILLERS: The Citadel last beat a Football Bowl Subdivision team in 1992 in a 15-14 win over Army. It capped a remarkable run where the Bulldogs beat four higher division opponents in a row including South Carolina in 1990 and Arkansas in 1992. Since then, it has been 28 straight losses.
OLD FOES: This will be the 51st game between The Citadel and South Carolina, but just the sixth one in the past 50 years. The Gamecocks have played only five opponents more: Clemson (112), Georgia (67), North Carolina (57), North Carolina State (57) and Wake Forest (56).