‘This is the game’ for Gamecocks fans

nwhite@thestate.comOctober 4, 2012 

  • GAMECOCKS VS. BULLDOGS WHO: USC (5-0, 3-0 SEC) vs. Georgia (5-0, 3-0) WHERE: Williams-Brice Stadium WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m. TV: ESPN RADIO: WNKT-FM 107.5 SATELLITE RADIO: Sirius 91/XM 91 LINE: USC by 2

Rixon Lane knew there was something different about this week as soon as Monday arrived.

A number of his fellow USC students were already walking around campus wearing their Gamecock gear – the garnet garments usually reserved for the Fridays and Saturdays of a college football weekend. But Lane, a junior broadcasting major from Woodruff who hosts a Monday night sports talk show on WUSC-FM, understood this was no ordinary game.

“In my three years here, I’ve never seen that,” Lane said. “Even when (No. 1) Alabama came to town two years ago, I don’t think there was quite this much excitement because, frankly, a lot of people didn’t expect us to win that game.”

The Gamecocks, of course, did win that game in 2010, which jump-started the best two-year stretch in the football program’s history.

Even the professor in Lane’s honors course, “Evolution and Christianity,” started the day’s lecture by talking about No. 6 South Carolina playing No. 5 Georgia in the matchup of unbeaten SEC heavyweights at Williams-Brice Stadium.

The buzz, it seems, is everywhere.

“Some friends came to me earlier in the week, people who I’ve gone to school with here that I had no idea of them even having any interest in football or sports,” Lane said, “and they want to talk about Georgia-South Carolina.”

ESPN’s “College GameDay” will broadcast live from the Horseshoe on this weekend – just as it did before that monumental Alabama game – and the atmosphere is expected to be as electric this time.

Kim Hamilton sure hopes it is. She’s the co-owner, along with her brother and sister, of Tios Mexican Café, which sits right across Sumter Street from the Horseshoe. She remembers the festive mood surrounding the “GameDay” experience from the previous trip.

“It was exciting. It was busy. We couldn’t believe all of the kids out there,” Hamilton said. “It was just jam-packed. It was a happy time. It was amazing how excited the kids were. They were playing music loud. Strobe lights were going. Everybody was pumped up for the game and ready for the Gamecocks to pull it off and win.”

Hamilton’s business will be ready as well. Tios will be decorated with balloons and have the Gamecock colors flying. It normally opens on Saturdays at 11 a.m. – and closes at 3 a.m. on Sundays – but this time will open three hours earlier at 8 a.m., an hour before the first ESPN broadcast gets under way.

“We’ll be ready to serve Huevos rancheros,” she said of the popular Mexican breakfast dish.

Jerry Brewer has seen his share of USC football ups and downs over the years. A student from 1974-78, he has worked at the university for 33 years, currently serving as the associate vice president for student affairs. He has told many of today’s students how fortunate they are to be experiencing what is shaping up as a golden age for Gamecocks football.

“This is the game,” Brewer said. “I tell them that all eyes across the nation are going to be focused on the University of South Carolina and that they’ll tell their kids about this for the rest of their lives.”

He has watched Gamecock fever spread across the campus this week like an epidemic.

“You can sit in the cafeteria at the Russell House eating a salad, and everybody is talking about the game,” Brewer said. “You can just feel it.”

Even the players sense the energy is spreading – as star tailback Marcus Lattimore terms it – “around the whole city.”

“It’s been going on since Sunday. Everybody is ready for this game,” Lattimore said. “Everybody is (saying), ‘Good luck Saturday.’ It’s more than usual. Around where I live, and when I go get something to eat, everybody is ready for the Georgia game.”

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