Big play flashback: Bennett’s leap in 1993 breaks hearts

dcloninger@thestate.comSeptember 4, 2013 

Every time South Carolina plays “between the hedges,” somebody remembers it.

With it being 20 years ago, and with the Gamecocks about to take another trip to Georgia, it resonates even louder.

“Seems like, people always ask me about my favorite games, that was probably one of them,” former USC quarterback Steve Taneyhill said. “We got two plays off in 14 seconds to win that game.”

Twenty years ago Wednesday, USC running back Brandon Bennett leaped over a mass of Georgia Bulldogs piled upon the goal line, tumbling into the Sanford Stadium end zone with two seconds to play. The Gamecocks won 23-21 and began their season with an SEC win; combined with the magic that ended the 1992 season, most believed that 1993 was truly going to be The Year.

It wasn’t. USC went 3-7 after that glorious afternoon in Athens, losing six games it was winning in the fourth quarter, three of them by four points or fewer. Coach Sparky Woods was fired and, while new coach Brad Scott piloted the Gamecocks to their first bowl win a season later, his five-year tenure would also end in defeat.

But for that day, which extended an offseason of high expectations, USC stood as one of the best teams in program history, if not one of the best teams in college football. At that point, the Gamecocks had won six of their past seven games.

It didn’t last, leaving Bennett’s Herculean leap, and the radio broadcast tied to it, as one of the most enduring memories in program history.

“You know what? I didn’t think about it, but you just made me feel old,” Bennett told The State at a gathering of pro football alums at USC in February. “The thing about it that I like is that people still talk about it and still play it.”

Georgia’s famed Larry Munson implored the Bulldogs to “lay down, you guys!” as Bennett’s first try at the game-winner was stifled. As the clock wound down, Georgia was slowly getting up as USC again got into formation.

Taneyhill said that the Gamecocks had called two plays in the huddle, which were both Bennett over the top. “I turned the wrong way on the first one,” he said. But there was time to line up and do it again.

Taneyhill took the snap and turned to his right, where fullback Rob DeBoer was waiting. He kept the ball in his hand as he spun in a circle, where Bennett waited on the other side.

Bennett took the ball, a step, and leaped. A former prep high jumper, Bennett took off, flipping his body over as the pile of Bulldogs resembled the high bar.

He landed as Munson, broken-hearted, uttered a line that would forever be stamped in USC lore.

“… He scored on the last play of the game. Bennett, a great athlete, leaps over the pile and broke our hearts with two seconds to go …”

“I’ve gotten (the call) sent to me through e-mail, I had a picture sent to me in the mail,” Bennett said. “It was a great call. He announced the heck out of that play.”

As another game against Georgia approaches in another season of expectations, Taneyhill reflected about how a great win didn’t result in a great year. He believes that USC is past that point now, where one game isn’t going to make or break a season.

“To win that game, and to win it with that last drive, it’s one of those things that all quarterbacks like,” he said. “To beat Georgia at Georgia, and how we beat them, expectations after that shot through the roof. Obviously, we didn’t take those expectations and turn them into a force. We all thought it was supposed to happen because of the way it ended, but we just didn’t win enough.”

The Gamecocks have won 32 games since the beginning of the 2010 season, constantly meeting expectations. They have had numerous highlight moments.

Have any of them, or will a leap over the pile this year, top the one 20 years ago?

Dwayne McLemore and Josh Kendall contributed to this story.

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