By Rixon Lane
Trying to come up with the best moment for a football program is nearly impossible.
It's like asking someone to name the greatest ten seconds of their life or asking a band to choose their favorite chord.
However, when it comes to the topic of the South Carolina Gamecock football program, I think I have the answer.
In order to determine the best moment, we need parameters. This is not the best game or the best play. Instead, it is the culmination of several factors, converging upon one another to create a unbelievable span of a few seconds.
That's why I'm nominating Ace Sanders' punt return touchdown against Georgia in 2012 as the greatest moment in the history of Gamecock football.
Here's the case:
1. The Environment
The largest crowd in Williams-Brice Stadium history was on hand. 85,199 fans packed in on a Saturday night to watch the Gamecocks. Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit, the two broadcasters assigned to the game, called it one of the best college football atmospheres they'd ever seen.
2. The Matchup
6th-ranked South Carolina versus 5th-ranked Georgia featured the second-highest combined ranking for any Gamecock football contest. South Carolina had never played in an SEC contest where both teams were in the top-10. One of South Carolina's most intense divisional rivals, Georgia was meeting the Gamecocks after September for the first time since 1980.
3. The Spotlight
"College Gameday" was in Columbia for the second time in three seasons. In addition to college football's top show making the trip, the Gamecocks were also scheduled for ESPN's primetime slot. The night marked the first time all season that ESPN would broadcast a South Carolina game at Williams-Brice Stadium.
4. The Return
South Carolina had jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Bulldogs in less than ten minutes. The Gamecocks were putting on a nationally-televised clinic and Georgia had no answers. In front of the entire country, South Carolina had gotten nearly an entire quarter of great publicity. Georgia was punting and the Gamecocks were poised to get the ball back in great field position. Ace Sanders nearly gave the ball back to Georgia by fumbling the kick, but he picked it up with room to move. Then, the most electrifying punt returner in Gamecock history went to work.
And the game, for all intents and purposes, was over.
5. The Call
There are few things in the world I enjoy more than hearing a great play-by-play call, either on television or the radio. Brent Musberger's line before going to commercial is the only call I've ever heard that has given me goosebumps every single time I've listened to it.
"Sit back and enjoy, folks…this is a 70-yarder…and South Carolina is sending shockwaves through the SEC."
For the Gamecock football program, I don't think it's ever been better than that.