TUSCALOOSA — History has a funny way of repeating itself from time to time.
Though don't expect No. 2 Alabama to be too inclined to experience any déjà vu when it travels to Columbia, South Carolina for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday on CBS.
And as many will take note of Saturday — adding to the dozens of mentions already this week — the last time a Top-5 ranked Crimson Tide visited Columbia, No. 1 Alabama left humbled by a 35-21 loss to the then-19th ranked South Carolina squad on Oct. 9, 2010. That result will be retold and replayed many more times on Saturday, including whenever the architect of that upset, former Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia, is shown on the sidelines.
Interestingly enough, there are nine references to that 2010 upset within the first three pages of South Carolina’s weekly game notes while it’s noticeably absent throughout Alabama’s weekly game notes — outside of one lone score reference beside “Last Meeting” on the cover page. In fact, the 2010 result doesn’t even appear in the list of games in the all-time series between the two squads on Page 10 of those notes, an apparent oversight by some Alabama sports information staffer.
Garcia, of course, threw for three touchdowns in the memorable upset, including a pair of scores to then-sophomore Alshon Jeffery, while running back Marcus Lattimore added three more rushing touchdowns on the ground for South Carolina’s first-ever victory over a No. 1 ranked team, and the defending national champions no less.
And while not many along Alabama’s sideline even remember that game save for head coach Nick Saban himself, the specter of that disaster will be hanging heavy over the visitors Saturday, serving as continual motivation of how overconfidence can get the better of any team, no matter how much talent it might have. And if this year’s Crimson Tide is going to accomplish what it has set out to do this season — revenging last season’s national championship debacle against Clemson — it’s going to start Saturday by taking care of business against the other major program from the Palmetto State.
While it’s hardly been perfect, surrendering 466 yards and 13 combined points through the first two weeks, Alabama’s rebuilt defense has looked fairly dominant at times, producing 12 three-and-outs and six turnovers among its 27 total defensive series so far this season. That includes limiting Duke and New Mexico State to just 70 combined yards in the first quarter of their games.
Meanwhile, the Gamecocks have proved quite efficient offensively in the first quarters of games so far, producing 31 combined points and 352 total yards in the opening 15 minutes against North Carolina and Charleston Southern. That included a 12-of-12 passing effort for 101 yards from freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski and 65 rushing yards from running back Rico Dowdle.
Back in 2010, South Carolina’s offense got going early with 21 straight points on Garcia’s three touchdowns to build a 21-3 lead before Alabama finally found the end zone on a touchdown pass of its own to Julio Jones with 38 seconds left before halftime. If this year’s Crimson Tide wants to send a message defensively that there’s going to be no repeat performance from nine years ago, it’ll start early and be highlighted by a couple of sacks or a big momentum-shifting turnover.