I will never forget my first game at Williams-Brice. It was a hot day in Columbia back in 2000. The Georgia Bulldogs were in town and were bringing Heisman hopeful Quincy Carter with him. Carolina had just ended the nation’s longest losing streak (21 games) to end Brad Scott’s tenure and start Lou Holtz’s. Us fans were hopeful, but were not expecting the upset that day. My step-mom had gotten us tickets and I still remember the excitement I had until this very day. We were tucked away in one of the corners of the lower bowl with all of the Carolina faithful.
Now I had witnessed 2001 on TV many times before, but let me tell you that nothing prepares you for the real thing. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning who had gotten exactly what they had wanted. The drums, the smoke, the roar of the crowd, many heart breaks would be created from this moment. I had been a fan since birth, but now I was hooked. I wanted to eat, sleep and breathe garnet and black. I wanted to know everything there was to know about the program and the players, past and present.
The game could not have been written any better. Derek Watson would finish the game a little shy of 100 yards rushing, and Phil Petty did not exactly light up the scoreboard. But let’s talk about that defense. They would harass Quincy Carter all game long, forcing him into bad decision after bad decision. They would pick him off 5 times throughout the game. There were not very high expectations for the squad in garnet that year. But it was filled with future NFL talent. Corners Sheldon Brown and Andre Goodman would each pick him off. Dennis Quinn, a defensive lineman, would add two more himself. Nothing that Georgia could do, could have helped them that day.
Carolina, despite a relatively quiet day offensively, would go onto win the game 21-10 behind Derek Watson’s 3 rushing scores. As the final second ran off the clock, the fans rushed onto the field. The goal posts were coming down! The fans were celebrating, and cheering leaving the game. Something that had been absent for the past several years. The team would go on to finish the season at 8-4 capping the season off with a smack down of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Outback Bowl. It was part of the turnaround of a losing franchise that was so desperate for success. That game was the moment that would cause my closet and drawers to be filled with garnet and black. The reason for late nights and what ifs. If we’d only beat Navy, if Jared Cook had not dropped that wide open pass against Auburn. So from now until my dying day, I am Forever to Thee.
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