COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Ticker) -- South Carolina's first victory over Alabama will go down as one of the most memorable and improbable wins in school history.
Dominated throughout, No. 16 South Carolina rallied for two touchdowns in the final 6 1/2 minutes to stun the Crimson Tide, 37-36, in a Southeastern Conference thriller.
Phil Petty capped the comeback with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Rod Trafford with 2:18 remaining.
"It was one of the finest games as far as intensity," South Carolina Lou Holtz said. "Just an outstanding group of young men from South Carolina refused to say no."
Alabama turned the ball over on downs on its ensuing possession and South Carolina (4-0, 3-0 SEC East) ran out the clock.
When time expired, thousands of Gamecocks' fans stormed the field and tore down the goalposts at William-Brice Stadium.
"This was the biggest win of my college career," South Carolina running back Derek Watson said. "It was the loudest the crowd has been in a long time."
Holtz was asked for his reaction to the goalposts coming down amid the postgame celebration.
"Do you realize how many of those pieces I am going to be asked to sign," he quiped.
South Carolina had lost all 10 meetings with the Crimson Tide, although a 1993 game was awarded to the Gamecocks by forfeit. Alabama was the only SEC team South Carolina had not beaten.
Statistically, South Carolina should have lost this one as well as its defense was on the field for nearly 39 minutes.
"Anytime you win a championship, you've got to win some games you absolutely are lucky to win," Holtz said. Got to have some things bounce your way.'
The Gamecocks had no answer for Alabama quarterback Tyler Watts, who accounted for a whopping 383 yards of total offense. He completed 20-of-25 for 231 yards and rushed for 152 yards on 22 carries while executing the Crimson Tide's option offense to near perfection.
"They had tremendous success with the option," Holtz said. "We didn't control it until the last two drives. Their quarterback is good and they manhandled us up front."
Alabama (2-2, 2-1 West) appeared to be in control when Watts scored on a five-yard TD run that made it 36-24 with nine minutes remaining. But South Carolina quickly answered, closing to 36-30 on Derek Watson's one-yard TD with 6:28 remaining.
The Gamecocks finally forced Alabama to punt and Petty, who was 19-of-33 for 291 yards and three touchdowns, engineered a four-play, 56-yard drive in less than two minutes.
"It's disappointing," Watts said. "We had opportunities with the turnovers our defense created and we just gave the ball back. We needed better ball control."
"We made a lot of plays today," Alabama coach Dennis Franchione said. "South Carolina just made one more."
Alabama shut down South Carolina's running game as Watson was the Gamecocks' leading rusher with just 24 yards on nine carries.
South Carolina is off to its second straight 4-0 start under Holtz, who is in his third year . The Gamecocks were 0-11 in Holtz's first season in 1999, but improved to 8-3 last year.
South Carolina seems to be thriving on adversity. The Gamecocks defeated Mississippi State, 16-14, last Thursday despite traveling to Starkville the day of the game due to mechanical problems on their plane.
On Saturday, Alabama threatened to blow out South Carolina early, outgaining the Gamecocks 101-0 in the first nine minutes. But South Carolina held Alabama to a pair of field goals by Noel Thomas and only trailed 6-0 after the first quarter.
Expected to be a defense battle, the contest turned into a shootout as Alabama outgained South Carolina, 516-359.
"I thought this would be a 17-16 game, instead of a 37-36 game," Franchione said.
South Carolina closed to 13-10 on Petty's 43-yard TD pass to Brian Scott with 9:49 left in the first half. But Watts' eight-yard TD run and Thomas' 24-yard field goal as time expired made it 23-10 at the half.
Ahmad Galloway added 75 yards on 22 carries for the Crimson Tide. He went over the 1,000-yard mark in career rushing with a three-yard TD that gave Alabama a 29-17 lead with 8:39 remaining in the third period.