“I don’t care if it’s our fans or somebody else’s fans screaming,” junior tailback Danny Ware said. “I like the noise.”
There’ll be plenty when the No. 12 Bulldogs play their first road game of the year at 7:45 p.m. in South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium.
“Two years ago, we pulled up there, and their fans were hitting the bus, rocking the bus, coming up through there,” Ware said. “I was like, ‘This is going to be a good game.’”
At least recently, that’s been true in Columbia. The Bulldogs (1-0) escaped with a four-point win in 2004 and a six-point victory in 2002 in a game in which they didn’t score an offensive touchdown. Georgia has won four straight, and seven of the last nine, overall in the series, but it can’t seem to break the Gamecocks’ spirit.
“Their fans don’t care if they are 10-0 or 0-10, they’re going to show up and get excited andcreate an atmosphere that is tough to deal with,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “The way they open the game gets people riled up, and they’ve got a passionate group of fans. They come out jacked up and ready o go, and we will have to match their intensity.”
The Bulldogs have been South Carolina’s first SEC home game of the season since the Gamecocks (1-0, 1-0 SEC) joined the conference in 1992. And Georgia always is greeted with enthusiasm fitting of a debut.
In 2004, “it was so loud in there one time it looked like the visitor’s side was swaying,” Georgia defensive end Quentin Moses said.
South Carolina has been the Bulldogs’ first SEC opponent at home or on the road for the last 14 seasons.
“We always want to get off to a good start, and I guess the anxiety of both teams and the adrenaline kind of gives added stimulation to how hard we play,” said safety Tra Battle. “Given that it is so early in the season, we’re all still pretty fresh. The grind hasn’t caught up with us. That makes you play faster.”
Unlike some of Georgia’s rivalries, in which the fans understand the history better than the players, the players are more aware of the importance of this game than the fans, Richt said.
Since 1999, the team that has won this game has played in a New Year’s Day bowl game and the team that has lost hasn’t won more than eight games.
“Our players know how crucial this game is. They know the history,” Richt said. “This game is huge for both teams. You’d like to think both teams can still go on to have great success afterward, but history hasn’t shown that to be the case.”
Games played in Columbia since South Carolina joined the Southeastern Conference in 1992.
2004 Georgia 20, South Carolina 16
2002 Georgia 13, South Carolina 7
2000 South Carolina 21, Georgia 10
1998 Georgia 17, South Carolina 3
1996 South Carolina 23, Georgia 14
1994 Georgia 24, South Carolina 21
1992 Georgia 28, South Carolina 6