THE SIX-PEAT THAT WASN’T … AND WHY
By WILL FOLKS || I don’t get it. At all.
In the days leading up to this year’s Palmetto Bowl – in which my alma mater the University of South Carolina annually does battle on the gridiron against its agrarian nemesis to the north (a.k.a. the Clemson Tigers) – absolutely nothing was left to chance.
Five straight wins is a big deal, people … especially in a series Clemson has historically owned.
And so the garnet sweatshirt with black lettering that cursed my beloved Gamecocks against Kentucky this year had long ago been thrown away. The black parka with garnet lettering that doomed us against Tennessee? It was burned – like, literally burned (in violation of God knows how many local ordinances).
The grey New Balance sneakers that cost South Carolina victories against Florida in 2012 (and again this year against Missouri) had been banished from the house.
Similarly, two friends whose enjoyment of my hospitality proximately caused Gamecock losses to Arkansas (2011) and LSU (2012) were told to give my abode a wide berth – or else. Meanwhile all members of my immediate family – many of whom were traveling during the Gamecocks’ 2013 loss to Tennessee – were instructed to remain at their homes between 12:00 noon and 3:30 p.m.
“Eastern Standard Time” was specified – with a phone call made to one relative whose car clock remains inexplicably stuck on daylight savings time.
A custom road white Under Armor jersey bearing my last name “FOLKS” and the No. 19 (which was a key ingredient in Gamecock victories over North Carolina, Mississippi State, Florida, Clemson and Wisconsin last year) was brought out of the closet. On top of it I wore the lucky grey sweater with garnet lettering that single-handedly delivered Gamecock wins over Clemson in 2001 and 2006.
I even busted out a lucky pair of black Adidas sweatpants which – with a little help from Marcus Lattimore – were directly responsible for South Carolina victories over Georgia in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Finally my garnet block “C” New Era cap – which went undefeated in 2013 – was brought out of retirement, replacing a grey interlocking “SC” New Era cap that posted a dismal 4-5 record this season.
Why didn’t I get rid of that accursed grey lid sooner? Well, I thought it had some mojo after it gave Gamecock quarterback Dylan Thompson the inch he needed against Georgia this year.
Summer sausage was sliced and arrayed on the serving tray that started the streak against Clemson five years ago. Meanwhile my wife’s signature cranberry feta pecan cheese spread was served up in a garnet-and-black bowl that had won three straight New Year’s Day bowls.
Cold beer was flowing like oil – although iced mugs were strictly verboten after what happened against Texas A&M earlier this season. Which, coincidentally, was also why there was not a slice of Monterey Jack cheese to be found anywhere in the house.
Like … nowhere.
Last but not least my friend James – whose presence on the left cushion of my leather love seat has engineered many a Gamecock victory over the past three seasons – was in position for kickoff after I urged him to abstain from spending an extra day enjoying the holidays with his family in Greenwood, S.C.
“Thanksgiving comes every year,” I told him. Which is true!
Like I said nothing was left to chance.
“Everything,” as Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke once crooned, was “in its right place.”
How confident was I that the Gamecocks were going to roll over the Tigers last weekend? Supremely. I wagered a barbecue meal against a Clemson big-wig – without taking the points Vegas was offering. Not only that, I chose my post-game headline for what would have been South Carolina’s sixth consecutive victory …
And when Pharoh Cooper strode into the end zone to put South Carolina up 7-0, I contemplated to myself how I might “six-bomb” the Clemson Rotary Club next year.
Alas, though, it was not meant to be.
As it turns out, superstitions don’t matter.
And even if they did, they’d have been no match for a Gamecock defense that surrendered 374 points (31.2 per game) and 5,203 yards (433 per game, 6.26 per play) this year. Or an offense that defined predictability. Or, you know, better coaching. And four straight years of getting waxed on the recruiting trail.
Oh well … “there’s always next year.”
Will Folks is the founding editor of the website you are currently reading.