COLUMBIA -- South Carolina fans snapped pictures in front of large-screen TVs and watched the Southeastern Conference championship game on outdoor terraces in the rain Saturday. And when pursuit of a first-ever SEC title finally died amid Cam Newton's stellar performance in Auburn's 56-17 victory, Gamecocks supporters picked up their heads and applauded a season like few others in school history. "This is so so exciting," said Ryan Kull of Columbia, a 27-year-old South Carolina graduate. "It's so fun to be a Gamecock fan." People in garnet South Carolina sweatshirts and ballcaps filled downtown restaurants and bars. Fans shouted at TV screens when Newton, the Auburn quarterback the NCAA ruled eligible despite a scandal, popped up. They cheered each time coach Steve Spurrier or offensive heroes such as receiver Alshon Jeffery and tailback Marcus Lattimore were shown. People posed in front of the large TVs at Carolina Ale House to get their pictures taken in front of images from South Carolina's first SEC game appearance. "We're going to do it," said Ray Prater, a Columbia banker, said before kickoff. South Carolina backers pounded the bar and tables when Auburn took a 7-0 lead, then high-fived and hugged as the Gamecocks quickly answered back with Patrick DiMarco's tying TD catch. Things were still at a fever pitch in the second quarter when Jeffery caught a touchdown from Stephen Garcia to cut Auburn's lead to 21-14. The mood took a dark turn moments later when the Tigers got an unlikely gift in a Hail Mary touchdown, boosting Auburn's lead to two TDs. South Carolina never recovered. There were about 2,500 people remaining to watch at the school's basketball arena, the Colonial Life Arena, after halftime. However, they began filing out when Garcia was intercepted for a touchdown that put the Gamecocks behind 42-14. "Hey, y'all comeback," someone shouted to the exiting fans. Come back, they will. South Carolina put together one of its most remarkable years in 117 years of football. The Gamecocks topped No. 1 ranked Alabama, won for the first time ever at Florida to win the SEC Eastern Division and beat rival Clemson in back to back seasons for the first time in 40 years. Their record stands at 9-4. A win in a bowl game would give the Gamecocks 10 wins for the just the second time in school history. Spurrier had talked about winning SEC titles since arriving six years ago. Former Gamecocks quarterback Corey Jenkins believes the program is closer to that than ever. "I'm actually very proud of them," Jenkins said. "To see this turnout here, it's very special." Jenkins was part of the Gamecocks' last 9-win season in 2001 and thinks this latest group has the staying power to keep South Carolina competing for the SEC East for several years. "Look at this team, what they have now and what they have coming back," Jenkins said. "I think it's a bright future."