Monthly Archives: January 2013
TRC Unleashed returns from a well-earned sabbatical just in time for Signing Day, and guess who they have in tow? Only six-time South Carolina Sportscaster of the Year Phil Kornblut and his mad recruiting knowledge.
But seriously, Phil brings every bit of his 30+ years of covering recruiting to the table and it is well worth listening to his take on this year’s Gamecock recruiting class (hint: it’s pretty darned good) and the players we can expect to see on the field in 2013.
You do have to listen to us ramble on about basketball for about 15 minutes before we bring Phil in, but it’s well worth the wait.
Click the graphic to LISTEN UP!
In football lore, it is known simply as “The Drive”.
It was the 1987 AFC Championship Game between the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos. Down by a touchdown with 5:32 left to play, John Elway led the Broncos on a 15-play, 98-yard drive to tie the game which they eventually won in overtime. ”The Drive” was a legendary march that is universally recognized as one of the clutch moments in the history of the game.
Until the final drive of the 2013 Outback Bowl, no drives by a Gamecock offense (in any era) deserve to be compared to The Drive. The 1993 drive to win the Georgia game at Sanford Stadium probably comes closest, but that game was the first of a season in which USC finished 4-7 and Georgia finished 5-6. A great drive in Gamecock history, yes, but it’s hard to put any meaningful historical context around it.
Some impressive drives were longer and consumed more time and plays (see the 98 yard game-clinching and time-eating drive against Tennessee in 2011), but none were more compelling, meaningful or magical than the final drive of the Outback Bowl this year.
Lost in the well-deserved hoopla surrounding ”The Hit” (no explanation necessary) and the quick TD strike to Ace Sanders that followed it, is the fact that Michigan then methodically marched down the field to regain the lead. At that point, we were down 28-27. Three minutes and twenty-nine seconds remained in the game. After a kickoff return by Sidney Rhodes (no, I’ve never heard of him either), things got really interesting:
1. 1st and 10, Gamecock 30-yard line. Bruce Ellington 4-yard pass from Connor Shaw. An unremarkable play, but a positive start (and Bruce’s first catch of the game – a sneak peak – it would not be his last).
2. 2nd and 6, Gamecock 34-yard line. Shaw sacked for a 4-yard loss. Some major doubt started to creep into the heads of the Gamecock faithful at this point. Clock management is not great as time is now bleeding off rapidly. The clock is at 1:58 when the ball is snapped on 3rd down after the sack.
3. 3rd and 10, Gamecock 30-yard line. Rory Anderson 7-yard pass from Shaw. The ball is knocked from Anderson’s grasp as he hits the ground, but it’s eventually ruled a catch. Seventeen seconds inexplicably run off the clock while the officials discuss the play (great officiating in this game, by the way). When the ball is snapped on the 4th down play that follows, 1:21 remained on the clock. At this point, we had used 2:07 of the game clock and gained exactly seven yards. Nothing about this possession appeared to indicate that it would be something special. To the contrary, it appeared to be a complete disaster. Then, in an instant, everything changed.
4. 4th and 3, Gamecock 37-yard line. Sanders 6-yard pass from Shaw. Shaw dropped back and threw a dart to Sanders who beat his man on a slant route. At this point, I am thinking that we might have a small chance to get into field goal range.
5. 1st and 10, Gamecock 43-yard line. Sanders 7-yard pass from Shaw. This is sort of a forgotten play in the sequence, but was pretty amazing in retrospect. Shaw dropped back and was pressured. In what appeared to be a desperation throw, he hurled one towards the sideline and found Sanders. Honestly, I thought Shaw was throwing it away. We are now under a minute to go, :52 to be exact. Carolina called timeout #2, and now had one left. In the ESPN booth, John Gruden and Mike Tirico discuss the shakiness of our field goal unit. Gamecock fans everywhere were thinking the exact same thing.
6. 2nd and 3, Midfield. Sanders 7-yard pass from Shaw. Left tackle Cory Robinson was whipped by his man who rushed in and grabbed Shaw around the waist. He proceeded to sling Shaw towards the ground, but Shaw somehow stayed on his feet and hit Sanders on a shallow route across the middle. Sanders turned upfield and made a move before being dropped. After the play Shaw limped around in obvious pain. The camera then panned to Sanders lying on the turf, also in pain. He had tweaked a knee. While Sanders was attended to, Shaw went to the sideline and removed his helmet. He was clearly done. On one play, we lost our QB and “ace” receiver. Things were looking pretty bleak to say the least.
The clock was down to :42.
Enter Dylan Thompson.
7. 1st and 10, Wolverine 43-yard line. Kenny Miles 3-yard pass from Thompson. Thompson shook off any jitters with a quick completion to the sideline. Solid play that went for positive yards and took little time. A good start for #17.
8. 2nd and 7, Wolverine 40-yard line. Thompson dropped back, avoided a sack, and ran out of bounds for a one yard gain. Another play that is lost in the shuffle. A sack here would have been disastrous. Thompson avoided it and kept the drive alive. Twenty-six seconds remained on the clock.
9. 3rd and 6, Wolverine 39-yard line. Damiere Byrd 7-yard pass from Thompson on a middle receiver screen. Looking back, it was an absolutely fantastic play call by the HBC. Michigan came with a blitz. Thompson calmly delivered a strike to Byrd who ducked in for a first down.
10. 1st and 10, Wolverine 32-yard line. Thompson spiked the ball to stop the clock with :17 left. The HBC was obviously saving his final time out for a field goal. Or so we thought at the time….
11. 2nd and 10, Wolverine 32-yard line. Thompson hits Ellington for a 32-yard TD. Michigan came with a zone blitz. All the Carolina receivers ran verticals, also known as streak routes. Three receivers (Cunningham, Anderson, and Nick Jones) lined up to the left, and two receivers (Ellington and Miles) lined up to the right. Five DBs covered the receivers to the left of the formation and only two covered the ones to the right. Ellington ran to an open spot and Thompson delivered a beautiful ball as he was nailed by a blitzer. Pandemonium erupted in Gamecock households everywhere.
The Drive was remarkable in several respects:
- Shaw and Thompson were a combined 8 for 9 on the march. The only incompletion was an intentional one to stop the clock.
- The drive was started by Shaw (he ran 6 plays) and finished by Thompson (he ran 5). Something tells me that the HBCs decision to give Thompson playing time earlier in the game was a good one. I’ve watched a lot (too much) football in my day, and I can’t remember another instance where a backup QB finished a game winning drive after the starter was knocked out.
- Both Shaw and Thompson avoided almost certain sacks that probably would have spelled doom.
- The drive was completed with our star receiver on the sideline with a knee injury. No Shaw, No Lattimore, No Ace. No problem. [Recall that last year we finished up without Garcia, Lattimore, and Jeffrey]
In a game full of big plays, one of which was the play of the bowl season, the final drive has been overshadowed and almost forgotten. Normally, a drive of this magnitude and containing such drama would almost certainly receive more attention and praise. Without it, The Hit could not be credited with shifting the momentum in the game.
While not a thing of beauty, the guts exhibited by Shaw, Thompson and Sanders symbolize the make up of the 2011 and 2012 Gamecock squads.
To borrow from Ray Tanner, the “Win Anyway” attitude of these teams culminated and peaked in one glorious drive that, upon reflection, will likely go down as the greatest in Gamecock football history.
It started with a tweet from PegPelvisPete (@PegPelvisPete) last football season, I think it was last football season, that said…
The simplicity of that is magnificent. Just a calm, simple two words that indicate hell is about to be unleashed on anything carrying a football not wearing the Gamecock garnet and black. And it wears number 7.
For some reason that short phrase hit me on the way to work this morning and made me LOL. And I don’t LOL much ever.
This voice in my head – an old southern gentleman, probably some type of a farmer who has seen bad times and don’t likely scare easy – calmly utters this simple phrase…Clowney comin’…and mayhem ensues. People run for cover, falling all over each other to find refuge under a bed or behind a parked car or in a hall closet. They know he’s comin, and it ain’t gonna be good.
So PPP had the idea for the Tumblr site, and I immediately thought of DJ Swearinger Photoshop master George Stevens (@Jorge_Stevens), and those two birthed the site, which is magnificent.
Kudos guys, may it live on forever.
Today Tajh Boyd announced he will be returning in the fall to play his senior season at Clemson.
“This is a great day for me, as I have a great love for Clemson University, and a great love for college football.” Boyd said. “We still have a lot to accomplish as a team, and I have some personal goals I would like to attain at this level before turning my attention to the NFL.”
Boyd then went deeper into his decision to stay in school.
“I’m not going to lie, I like being hit. I get a real rush out of that feeling – just being tackled hard by big defensive linemen and linebackers,” he said. “I’m afraid by going to the NFL I won’t get that feeling, because those offensive linemen protect really well, unlike what I get here week in and week out.”
“This may come as a surprise, but I don’t necessarily want to be protected on every play. I crave getting hit.”
There’s one team in particular he’s looking forward to facing.
“Oh, I’ve got that trip to Williams Brice circled,” Boyd said. “I mean, let’s get one thing straight, we’re not going to win that game. As Clemson Tigers we all need to go ahead and resign ourselves to that fact. But me? I’m looking forward to getting sacked multiple times. Driven into the turf. Blindsided. You name it, I can’t wait.”
The thought of playing against Jadeveon Clowney made for a very emotional moment for Boyd.
“When Clowney hits you it’s just the best. It’s so powerful, and it hurts like crazy. I can’t wait until November so I can feel that feeling again and again,” he said. “That hit in the Outback Bowl…”
Boyd paused for several moments with his hand over his mouth to compose himself.
“It was magical, man. I still have dreams about that – taking a shot right to the chest, helmet flying off – wishing that was me. It CAN be me, that’s one of the main reasons I came back.”
When asked what he will be working on with offensive coordinator Chad Morris during the offseason he didn’t hesitate.
“A lot of runs…to Clowney’s side.”
Polls are flawed. Polls are subjective.
Polls cause arguments that can’t be won by anyone.
Preseason polls are the worst and unnecessary, while postseason polls are ok (and necessary), but still inherently flawed.
South Carolina finished with its highest ranking ever in the final coaches poll, coming in at number seven. However, the two teams that beat the Gamecocks – Florida and LSU – finished behind us.
One of the teams we beat – Georgia – finished ahead of us.
That is because when teams lose, they fall. When teams win, they rise, or at worst stay where they were the previous week. It’s automatic.
So when #6 South Carolina beat #5 Georgia, we rose a little, and they fell a little.
The next week we lost to a top 5 team and Georgia was idle. We fell a little, they rose a little.
Then the next week we lost to a top 5 team again, and Georgia won again. We fell a little, they rose a little. And all of a sudden the team we beat just three weeks prior, by four touchdowns no less, was deemed the better team once again. At least according to the rankings.
Certainly there are variables that lead to more precipitous drops or greater climbs in the polls, but much of your final status is determined by when you lose as much as to whom you lose.
So when I looked at the final top 25 and saw Notre Dame at number three, I just had to do something about it. With apologies to Louis Nix III, we all know they’re not the third best team in the country, right? Not even close.
So, I gave it the old eye test. Who looked the best for the most number of weeks throughout the season, combined with who looked the best at the close of the season. Throw records out (somewhat) and throw statistics out (completely). And throw out transitive properties, because we all know that definitely doesn’t work.
So I put together some unidentifiable criteria in my mostly empty skull and my flawed (but less flawed) Eye Test Top 25 looks something like this:
- Alabama – The Tide was teetering at the end of the year. They lost to TAMU, and barely squeaked by UGA to get into the title game. Then a month-long dose of Saban game-planning combined with a significantly overmatched opponent made Bama look like one of the greatest teams ever. I’m not taking anything away from U of A, they’re a dynasty, plain and simple. I’m just saying the gap between 1 and 2 is not as great as you might think.
- Texas A&M – Pummeled everything in their path once they learned who they were. An A&M-Bama matchup for the title would’ve been a dandy, and in a 16-team tournament format I think would’ve happened. Alas, Alabama gets the edge because, you know, National Championship and all.
- Oregon – I almost have to put them here so I don’t look SO much like an SEC homer. I admittedly didn’t see them play much this year, and there were supremely impressive when I did. Still, they had their problems along the way. Even so, they stick at #3.
- South Carolina – Hey, this is a Gamecock blog, you really expect me to put us behind Georgia? It’s truly a toss-up for the #4 slot, and because of USC’s dominating 35-7 victory in October I have to give this one to the home team.
- Georgia – It pains me to say it, but Georgia was awfully good by the end of the year. Their defense was enigmatic given they have at least NINE draft picks in their starting eleven. Their offense could score with anyone, and almost did in the SECCG. Phew, thank God for tipped passes.
- Stanford - A very tough, physical football team I really enjoyed watching when I had the opportunity. David Shaw has done a remarkable job since taking over for Jim Harbaugh.
- Louisville – You saw the Sugar Bowl, right?
- Florida State – I really don’t know if Florida State deserves to be here. If they ever get coaching to match their top 5 talent they’ll easily be the cream of the ACC crop.
- Florida – Florida had one of the most impressive regular season resumes out there. But you saw the Sugar Bowl, right?
- Clemson – You won’t hear this spoken on this blog very often, but really a pretty good team. Boyd is definitely one of the top quarterbacks in the country when not playing South Carolina. And their skill talent is excellent. Still, probably would be the sixth, seventh best team in the SEC.
(Quick, everybody do a quick chant with me: SEC! SEC! SEC!)
- Kansas State – Remarkable what Bill Snyder has done with this program.
- LSU – Incredible talent. Massive brain farting by the head coach. No reason these guys shouldn’t finish top 5 every season. Instead they lose to an ACC team to close out the year.
- Boise State – Completely off my radar all year, but finished with a great record and an impressive bowl victory, albeit against a pretty terrible Washington team.
- Notre Dame - National Championship contender? Puh-leeze.
- Northwestern - Pat Fitzgerald is a great, great coach. Has made a perennial doormat into a consistent winner. Don’t know why his name doesn’t come up more often in coaching circles. Maybe because he’s a Northwestern alum.
- Oklahoma - Get sick of hearing about this team every year when they’re only slightly above average. Bitch-slapped by TAMU.
- Vanderbilt - Might deserve to be higher. Another amazing coaching job, but James Franklin has a lot of that Dabo rah-rah in him which can wear thin pretty easily. Then again, this is Vandy. He could probably wear floppy shoes and a big red nose on the sideline and they wouldn’t care as long as he’s winning.
- Utah State – Don’t know exactly why, but here they are.
- Texas – See Oklahoma, but with a bowl win.
- Michigan – Good team with a good coach. Michigan will be a Top 10 team again shortly.
- Oregon State - Meh.
- Nebraska – Taylor Martinez thinks they should be ranked higher.
- Cincinnati - Meh part II.
- UCLA – Surprisingly good job by Jim Mora. (Not Jr., he’s not a Jr., so stop calling him that.)
- Baylor – Phil Bennett doesn’t believe the SEC has ever seen an offense like this.*Not considered because I’m a football snob:
San Jose State
The TRC Unleashed crew returns from a month long sabbatical to review the amazing Outback Bowl victory over Michigan, and some play that some guy made that a lot of people are talking about.
And Buck tells some people to shut up.
And we break down Dabo’s sermon from New Year’s Eve.
And Tbone promises to broadcast naked if we win the National Title next year. (EWWWWWWW.)
Click the graphic and give a listen!