Redemption is the word

The last time the Gamecocks played in the Georgia Dome, what was supposed to be one of the best days in the history of South Carolina football quickly unraveled into a forgettable first ever trip to the SEC Championship game. They'll look for redemption Friday night against Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Asked what one thing about the Gamecocks SEC Championship game loss haunts him the most, South Carolina center T.J. Johnson didn't hesitate.

"The score."

The last time the Gamecocks played in the Georgia Dome, what was supposed to be one of the best days in the history of South Carolina football quickly unraveled into a forgettable first ever trip to the SEC Championship game. Cam Newton and the BCS Championship-bound Auburn Tigers demolished the Gamecocks in about every way possible on the way to a 56-17 Auburn victory.

"I would say the way we played," redshirt junior defensive tackle Travian Robertson answers to the same question. "I don't think we played as well as we could."

The Gamecocks haven't fared much better in recent bowl games. Last year it was a lackluster 20-7 loss to Connecticut in the PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. The year before, Iowa scored the first 31 points of the Outback Bowl on its way to a 31-10 victory over Carolina.

Needless to say, the Gamecocks have multiple reasons to want to finish off the 2010 season on a positive note

"I believe that redemption is the biggest thing that we're coming back trying to do," Johnson said Wednesday. "That's our goal and that's what we're thinking."

South Carolina just simply didn't play well in those three contests and paid for it against quality opponents.

While head football coach Steve Spurrier didn't expect his team to struggle prior to any of those games, he vowed after last year's bowl loss to change how the Gamecocks would prepare if they made a bowl this season.

"I think two main things, we moved some practices to the morning which sort of changed the routine of getting the guys up and getting going," defensive coach Ellis Johnson said. "And the second thing is we have done a lot more work of what I call good on good. We've worked the first team against the first team probably as much as 20 minutes a day minimum in practices, and I don't think we did that much in previous years."

While the coaching staff believes those were positive changes – especially with thin overall depth affecting this year's scout team –Spurrier says his team will have to prove it on the field.

"I thought we were going to play pretty well against Auburn too," Spurrier said. "We didn't play terrible defense the last two bowl games, we just got beat by teams that were better than us. We've got to play very well to give ourselves a chance."

The Gamecocks hope that upperclassman leadership helps the team to bounce back from the SEC Championship game loss, and that the infusion of freshman talent that wasn't on the team during the previous two bowl games leads to a better outcome Friday night.

"I think leadership plays a big role on this team this year," Robertson says. "We started in the summer and just have been continuing to grow all year. I think leadership plays a big role. And all the new guys that came in fit in well."

While some important seniors will be moving on, the Gamecocks will be getting most of those leaders and young players back next year as they attempt to get back to the Dome again.

But for now they'll take a Chick-fil-A Bowl match-up with Florida State and a chance to ride a big wave of momentum into the offseason with what would be one of the best seasons in school history record-wise.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Jason Barnes summed it up nicely after Wednesday afternoon's practice.

"We want to win and get to 10 wins." And Redemption.

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