ATHENS — If you’ve never been to Williams-Brice Stadium, it’s easy to think that Georgia is making too much of the environment it expects to encounter there. As I reported yesterday, the Bulldogs have been practicing this week between giant Bose speakers blasting South Carolina’s two favorite songs, “Sandstorm” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Quarterback Hutson Mason has been allowed only to whisper audibles, cadences and snap counts during practice as Georgia tries to mastermind non-verbal communication.
Having been to Columbia many times over the years — and especially having been there in 2012 — I don’t believe this to be overkill. While Texas A&M has already been there and shown that the atmosphere can be overcome, I’m here to tell you that the Gamecocks get up for the Bulldogs like no other team not called Clemson. And that goes back well beyond Steve Spurrier’s arrival 10 years ago.
But what Georgia encountered there in their last trip to Williams-Brice was truly a perfect sandstorm of circumstances. Less than 10 minutes into the contest and after only five offensive plays, the Bulldogs found themselves down 21-0. The rest of the game was academic as UGA unceremoniously fell 35-7.
“Those fans, man, that was the most hostile game I’ve ever played in,” said Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins, who was a freshman that season. “Either them or Tennessee has the loudest stadium. And it just felt like everything that could go wrong went wrong in that game. They capitalized on every mistake we made, they made plays and it was one of the worst games I’ve ever endured.”
- You’ll recall that Bacarri Rambo was unable to hold onto a would-be interception and South Carolina’s Damiere Byrd snatched it away instead for a big gain to set up the first touchdown 2 1/2 minutes in.
- An Aaron Murray pass was deflected (one of 10 on the day) and intercepted on Georgia’s first offensive possession. The Gamecocks scored again a couple of minutes later.
- The Bulldogs were three-and-out on their next possession, and Ace Sanders returned the ensuing punt 70 yards for another TD and a 21-0 lead with 5:18 to left in the first quarter.
The point being, it’s important to not let South Carolina’s techno-manufactured, towel-waving environment gain any momentum. Like a heavyweight boxing match, the Bulldogs have to absorb those early blows and stay on their feet. In the end, they’re the better punchers.
Jenkins, I think, had the right idea when he said that he, too, gets “heated up” by South Carolina’s “Sandstorm” tradition and plans to jump around and enjoy it. Indeed, the Bulldogs need to wave their own towels when the Gamecocks blast that song over their loudspeakers. Georgia needs to embrace the atmosphere rather than be intimidated by it.
For those of you who didn’t experience that environment in 2012 — and watching it on TV did it no justice — following is a fans’ YouTube video account that will give you an idea of what that place was like moments before kickoff. Be warned, it’s loud.