Author Archives: gman
With the comet Ison streaking through our solar system, I thought it an appropriate time to write a little about the current universe that is South Carolina – Clemson* football.
In the last week or so I’ve heard a lot of talk from Clemson* fans about “restoring the universe.” This is obviously a reference to the historical win-loss record in the series and their belief that the last four years have been some sort of celestial aberration from the norm, i.e., the stars are out of alignment.
Well, I’ve got some news for them:
The universe is now fundamentally different than it was during the vast majority of the time these two teams squared off against each other in November. As much as Clemson* fans want to curl up next to the fire and take comfort in the series record, we all know that there’s a new reality, a reality that started in 1992 when South Carolina joined the Southeastern Conference.
At TRC we have never misrepresented the past or the truth. We fully acknowledge that we had a pretty average football program around here for a long, long time. It’s no secret that Clemson* emphasized winning at football more than we did, and the results showed up on the scoreboard. With that out of the way, let’s talk about the here and now, the current universe in which these teams operate.
When USC joined the SEC we weren’t ready to compete, not by a long shot. It was a slow, difficult process building up the football program. During this same period Clemson* was still basking in the glow of its glory days of the 1980s. Over the next decade or so nothing much changed on the surface. Beneath the surface, however, keen observers could see the transformation that was taking place. After several years of taking our lumps in the SEC, the overall strength and growth of the conference and all of its football prowess began to show in our product on the field.
Clemson* for a long time remained the more physical team in the series, with its traditional power running game and strength along both lines of scrimmage. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks were known as a team with good skill position guys but one that was lacking where it mattered the most – in the trenches. We could occasionally break through with a victory in the big game, but most years the result was a testament to the most basic of all football adages that games are won by running the ball on offense and by stopping the run on defense. More times than not, Clemson* did this to us and we could not do it to them.
The SEC affiliation has brought better players and coaches to South Carolina. This is largely a result of the power and money of the conference. There’s no way Lou Holtz or Steve Spurrier would have come to USC but for our membership in the greatest conference in college football. While our entry into the SEC was no quick fix for our football team, the gradual transformation of the program from a finesse team to a team emphasizing defense and ball control is obvious and profound. No more do we have to move offensive lineman and linebackers to the defensive line late in the season. The past few years we have been known as one of the national leaders along the defensive front, with players like Norwood, Ingram, Robertson, Matthews, Taylor, and Quarles (oh, and some guy named Clowney) shutting down the opposition.
While we gradually built up our team with recruiting and an emphasis on defense, the upstaters decided to place an emphasis on finesse and the new fangled “up tempo” offensive system sweeping the college football ranks. The power running game of the past has been replaced by the wide receiver screen.
Is Clemson* good at what they do? Without question. Are they capable of beating us tomorrow? Sure, I believe they are. Just like we had a chance and occasionally beat them before our membership in the SEC began to reveal itself, Clemson* can beat us tomorrow. If they do, we will most assuredly be disappointed and down in the dumps for a while.
But will a Clemson* victory be an indication that the order of the universe has been restored, that the stars are now back in alignment? No, not by a long shot.
The universe has shifted. We know it. They know it. If they try to convince you otherwise by throwing the series record in your face, just smile and say three letters:
*2012 ACC Atlantic Division Co-champions (even though they lost the regular season match-up against the other co-champions.)
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.
The worm has turned…big time.
Yeah, we know that’s pretty obvious to most based on the winning streak and all, but we eternal pessimists at TRC occasionally need some convincing. Why? As lifelong Gamecocks fans, it’s sometimes hard for us to actually believe this transformation has happened.
I’ll admit it, as late as kickoff I had my doubts about Saturday’s outcome after learning that Connor Shaw was out. I’m just glad that the HBC and the team knew better.
After having a couple of days to reflect, I’ve arrived at some conclusions about our series with Clemson Tiger University, aka CTU. While they have the overall record and all (big whoop), it is now crystal clear that we have caught them. And passed them. Like they are standing still.
To hammer this point home, here are some cumulative statistics from the four game winning streak:
- Score: USC 124, CTU 54
- 1st Downs: USC 80, CTU 57
- Total Yards: USC 1574, CTU 992
- Rushing Yards: USC 662, CTU 324
- Passing Yards: USC 912, CTU 668
- Time of Possession (Average): USC 37 minutes, CTU 23 minutes
- Turnovers: USC 3, CTU 9
From these numbers, it’s clear that we are winning the old-fashioned way: by controlling the clock and winning the turnover margin. We now dominate the line of scrimmage. In short, we now beat them like they used to beat us.
I remember all too well when CTU used to intimidate us. They punished us with a bruising ground game and stuffed the run on defense.
Now, it is the Gamecocks who are doing the intimidating.
Today their fans are all whining about DJ’s hit on Andre Ellington and his post-annihilation antics. He’s a “thug” and such they are saying.
Puh-lease. Last time I checked, this is big boy football. At least on our end of things.
CTU can take their new choir-boy-we-love-everybody attitude and see how far that takes them. I can tell you, it ain’t taking them very far. Their league and their program are marshmallow soft. It’s not an accident that Nuk Dropkins, er Hopkins, dropped a couple of balls after DJ posterized Ellington. It’s all about toughness, depth and athleticism on the offensive and defensive lines.
We are committed to this brand of football as there is no other path to success in the SEC. You either keep up or get crushed.
From a quick glance around the internet, you can tell that reality is starting to set in in the Upstate. The kool-aid drinkers are suddenly in the minority. Finesse and trickery can overwhelm AA competition, but it simply does not cut it in the major leagues. And make no mistake about it, the SEC is The Show. If there was any doubt, yesterday’s results were a flashing neon sign to CTU and the ACC:
Mack truck coming through. Get your crappy Fiat out of the left lane.
Clowney-CTU Record Holder. Clowney set a Death Valley record for sacks in a game (breaking a record held by the great Bruce Smith). That’s more than William Perry, Michael Dean Perry, Daquan Bowers, Trevor Price, Ricky Sapp, and all the other CTU defensive lineman have had there. And Clowney has played there exactly once.
Morons. There are a few CTU fans who are still insisting, after all we have seen, that they have the better team. These folks either know absolutely zip about football or are so mesmerized by the cult of Dabo that they can’t see what it right in front of their face. Hell, even the cult leader admitted post game that we have the better team. He was very complimentary. Almost too complimentary. It’s almost like he wanted to get that out of the way so he could say he did it. We all know what’s coming next: the propaganda machine is in production mode. I can’t wait to see what it spits out this time.
Push-off Payback. The excuses are starting to leak out. But for the two interference calls against CTU in the 2nd half, they would have won. Never mind that we didn’t score on that drive, it was a clock and possession thing they say. Well, I’ve got two answers for that: 1. Jimmy Legree was ROBBED, and 2. no amount of bad calls (assuming, for the sake of argument, that they were) will EVER add up to egregious bad call that handed the Push Off game to CTU. Bad calls happen and they are a bitch. Deal with it.
Let’s get one for the thumb next year, then get that other hand ready to go. This streak may last a while.
If there was any shred of doubt left, last night cemented that the HBC has clearly regained his swagger.
Last night’s weekly call-in show - normally a dry, coachspeak preview of this week’s opponent interspersed with sometimes imbecilic fan questions - provided Coach a public forum to unload on a certain unnamed columnist at an unnamed Columbia based newspaper.
And boy did he ever unload.
Using a tone and language usually reserved for Seminoles or Volunteers during his Gator days, Spurrier ripped into this so-called columnist with venom and fire. The message: Enough is enough. No more unresearched columns designed to denigrate our program and the character of the HBC. No more outrageous comparisons to Penn State. No more back-stabbing from the home town paper.
As we all know, this feud between coach and writer has been going on for quite some time. It started with the Bruce Ellington “poaching” comment, continued with an accusation that coach callously and carelessly played an injured Connor Shaw, and culminated with a comment that the program was starting to resemble the one at Penn State.
We have commented on the stormy relationship between coach and columnist before. After yesterday’s written apology by said columnist and today’s bombastic response by the HBC, we have been contemplating our reasoned and carefully crafted response to the latest developments, and we present it here:
HELL YES !!!!!
For years our program has been pushed around by just about everybody-our conference foes, CTU, the media, you name it. It’s long been “sport” to take pot shots at the moribund USC football team. Well, things are a changin’.
Yesterday was a landmark moment in the evolution of the program. The HBC’s rant was a statement that we are becoming, dare we say it, Big Time.
For years the football team needed the local paper for publicity. Now, it’s clear that the worm has turned. The paper, faced with a shrinking readership and competition from all sides, needs the football program (and the other USC sports programs as well).
There’s no denying that the sports page is by far the most important section of the paper. Heck, on some days they don’t even publish other traditional sections. Yet, they can’t help themselves. They can’t seem to break from the days when all they had to write about was the negative stuff. You would think that the paper would embrace the recent successes and rejoice in the fact that we finally have a coach who has an idea or two about how to win a football game.
In addition to winning, the HBC is (or should be) a newspaper man’s dream. He speaks off the cuff and oftentimes gives the best quotes in the business. The folks at the paper should realize that they have it pretty damn good under the circumstances.
But what do they do? They try to screw it all up by allowing a guy to repeatedly attack the character of the HBC. While coach has his faults (well, don’t we all), I don’t think there are too many folks in the world of college football who would question his character.
We at TRC love the HBC and what he stands for. He’s called the Head Ball Coach for a reason. In many ways he’s a throwback to a different era of college football — an era when the players answered yes sir and no sir. Yesterday he half way threatened to leave if the local paper continued to allow moronic columns by moronic columnists.
Yesterday he drew the line.
Now that we’ve heard about the offense, defense, and special teams, I’m here to lay out for you the best and worse cases for the season in terms of wins and losses. T-Bone and Buck know I’m pessimistic by nature, so the best case is going to be kind of hard for me. As I am traditionally used to seasons where we struggle, writing about the worst case comes easy.
Best Case: 10-2 regular season, 12-2 overall. I know that some folks want to go all 12-0 or 11-1 on us, but I’m going to be a bit more realistic and project a best case regular season record of 10-2. Whammy comes through and proves to be at least as effective as Ellis. Shaw protects the ball. A couple of receivers, including Shaq Roland, emerge. And Clowney and Devin Taylor create havoc all season long.
Projected Wins: Vandy, ECU, UAB, Missouri, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Wofford, CTU. The Georgia and CTU wins are the sweetest of the bunch for obvious reasons. After the UGA win, CMR decides to abandon his holier than thou persona and return to his true Miami alum colors. He starts things off by declaring that no Bulldog player will ever be suspended again, under any circumstances. Dabo takes the loss in stride and decides to petition the CTU Board of Trustees to remove us from their schedule, seeking to replace us with future ACC member, Coastal Carolina.
Projected Losses: LSU, Arkansas. Baton Rouge with all those crazy drunk Cajuns is just too tough, and unlike Curly Hallman, Les Miles has a horseshoe permanently situated where the sun don’t shine. Arky continues to have our number as they eke out a 27-24 victory in Columbia. Later it is learned that Bobby Petrino was on the Arkansas sideline the whole game, disguised as a water boy. A careful review of the video shows that John L. Smith was unusually thirsty throughout, especially when Arky was on offense.
This would put us at 6-2 in the SEC East with a win over Georgia. Coupled with Georgia’s loss to Missouri this puts us back in the SEC Championship Game where we meet LSU again. LSU plays atrocious offense (sound familiar?), and they don’t have Tyronne Mathieu…ok, the “Honey Badger”, to bail them out this time. Adam Yates boots a 45-yard field goal as time expires and we escape with a 17-14 win. Lattimore is the MVP after running for 215 yards on 45 carries. He scores both TD’s on 4th down one-yard plunges. So there it is, our first SEC Championship.
We nonetheless finish 3rd in the BCS as both Oklahoma and Wisconsin (have you seen their schedules? an absolute joke) go undefeated. We end up in the Sugar Bowl against Michigan — and beat them to a pulp.
We get our first SEC Championship and BCS Bowl win.
Worst Case: 7-5 regular season, 7-6 overall. Last year’s close wins become this year’s close losses. Auguste never recovers and other injuries pile up on D. Shaw’s scrambles are contained and he has to force the ball into tight zone coverages, not his strong suit.
Projected Wins: Vandy, ECU, UAB, Missouri, Kentucky, Wofford, CTU. Coach Boom figures it out on D and Florida beats us in an ugly 14-13 slugfest where most of the points result from turnovers and special teams blunders. Murray and Bray light it up against a weakened Gamecock secondary. We predictably fall to LSU and Arkansas in ugly fashion. The only real bright spot of the season is another win over lowly CTU.
Projected Losses: Georiga, LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida.
With a 3-5 SEC record, we fall way down in the bowl pecking order. We end up in the Music City Bowl against North Carolina State, another 7-5 team. Uninspired and slowed by a large night in Nashville the night before, the Pack dispatch us by a score of 24-17.
So there you have it, the best and worst case scenarios for the 2012 Gamecock football team. But just remember, we are mere bloggers, and the truth probably lies somewhere intertwined in our message.
All I know is, right now, we’re undefeated.
Penn St. should not wait around to see if the NCAA determines it has jurisdiction and, if so, what penalties it would impose. Those pondering whether or not the NCAA can impose the death penalty or other penalties against the PSU football program are missing the much larger point, which is the fact that the transgressions committed by Sandusky and the powers who oversaw the football program concern matters much more important than college football and the rules that govern it.
Football is a game that we enjoy watching. Child rape and the enabling of child rape is an offense so egregious and so incredibly heinous that it offends humanity itself. To show that it understands that the preservation of its football program and the legacy of a coach pale in comparison to the duty of mankind to protect its children from horrific monsters, PSU should voluntarily, and immediately, shut the football program down for one season.
Such an action would show the public at large that PSU comprehends the enormity of the failures of its institution, and that it is willing to self-administer a sanction that symbolically demonstrates a sacrifice of the very thing the cover up was attempting to preserve.
After all, Penn St. is an institution of higher learning. Shouldn’t an institution of higher learning faced with a crisis of this magnitude go to every length possible, even to extraordinary ones if necessary, to preserve its integrity, and its commitment to the population at large? At this somber time, football should be the very least of the concerns of the people at Penn St. To put what matters in perspective, PSU should take a self-imposed hiatus from football.
Anything less tells the world that they still don’t understand.
For the past couple of days I’ve been struggling to come up with a post about the baseball team and what they have done. Many excellent writers have written about the team and its mindboggling accomplishments: back-to-back National Championships, three CWS Finals appearances in a row, the NCAA winning streak, the utter dominance of CTU on the diamond, etc. Instead of a continued rehashing of all of the feats of the past three seasons (and the entire Ray Tanner era for that matter), I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on the bigger picture:
What really happened here? What did we witness?
Well, Gamecock fans, I am here to tell you that we witnessed (and are witnessing) a dynasty unlike anything we have ever seen as a fan base. We are a program that has emerged from a decent history in baseball to become the unquestioned top program in the sport.
I tried to come up with some comparisons of teams who became the best and were not a traditional powerhouse: We are the equivalent of LSU’s baseball program in the 90s (trust me, it’s harder now than it was then). We are the baseball equivalent of Miami football in the 80s (stay with me, I’m talking new dynasties-otherwise, we have nothing in common with them). We are the basketball equivalent of UConn basketball (both men and women, to a certain extent).
Make no mistake, this is extremely rare air for us. Aside from a very brief period in the 70s when the basketball team challenged the big boys, we’ve never even approached this level of excellence at anything. Now, our baseball program is the simply the best in the country, and I challenge anyone to make a plausible argument otherwise (yes, Arizona, you won and deserved it, but we are talking about the overall program for a moment).
Soak it up folks. This is what it feels like. We’ve always wondered what it would be like to be on top, to have everyone else aspiring to be like us. Sure, I know it’s baseball and not football (or even basketball). You know what I say to that? So what. Our fan base has long hungered for a big winner. Now we have one. And dag blastit, we deserve this.
Coach Tanner and the players have been profusely thanked and honored and they too deserve all the praise they are getting. We at TRC join in. Our only regret is that we didn’t get to dogpile.
I blame Aaron Fitt. A dynasty, yes, but we did not get to this point by beating up the opposition with overwhelming talent. Instead, the program became the best by being the best at the little things: pitching and defense. We also benefitted from being the underdog. I really think there’s something to the underdog thing.
While I like Aaron Fitt and Baseball American a whole bunch, things were best for us when Aaron and his cohorts were picking us to lose to UCLA, to Florida, to UConn, and others. Over the past few years I can’t remember those guys ever picking us to win a big game. That changed when Fitt and John Manuel did their finals preview podcast last week. While Manual held true form and picked the more “talented” Arizona team, Fitt succumbed to the allure of the gritty Gamecocks and actually picked us to win.
So, I blame Aaron Fitt for the loss. It’s clearly his fault for upsetting the underdog karma.
The Shirt. It didn’t always work, but it was uncanny how often my old South Carolina Baseball shirt has proven to make a difference. Purchased at the Regionals or Super Regionals in 2002 (I think Buck was with me, but I’m not entirely sure), The Shirt has seen better days. It’s faded and rotten around the collar. Worn as an undershirt during important games (both Alabama wins come to mind), The Shirt has consistently produced for the Gamecocks.
At a football tailgate last year I had the luck of running into Coach Tanner. Less than fully sober and thinking that Ray surely wanted to hear about The Shirt and its vast powers, I proceeded to give him a viewing, holes and all. While I thought it was pretty cool, Ray told me not to wash it but sort of looked at me like I was crazy.
This post season I left The Shirt off until needed. Put on right before the 5th inning against Florida, The Shirt produced 5 runs. Put on in the 7th inning against Arizona in the final game, The Shirt produced the tying run. Coupled with my ritual of watching TV when we hit and listening to the radio when we pitch and play defense (which worked like a champ the last two years), I thought The Shirt would get it done once again.
Alas it wasn’t to be. While The Shirt is undoubtedly the most powerful good luck charm out there besides the Avatar Spirit Stick, we at TRC would like to know what other items or rituals are out there that seemingly cause the Gamecocks to win.
That’s what I yelled as I departed The Ray. The CTU fans within earshot just kept on walking, heads down.
Wow, was that sure a fun weekend of baseball. You would think it would sort of be ho-hum after the last two years, but it isn’t — not by a long shot. It’s never ho-hum to win a regional and to do it by spanking your rival. Again.
Game 1: It was epic, a true classic. I had the (dis)pleasure of sitting in the CTU parents and girlfriends section for that one. Man those are some annoying folks. They pretty much whined and cried about everything. I guess you could say the fans reflect the coach. Oh well, on to the game…..
Roth did not have his best stuff, but great D made up for it. Pankake’s backhand in the hole and throw to third being one example. Others who stood out: Rosenburg with several great stops on pitches in the dirt, and Marzilli with another great catch in center. At for the hitters, I was personally very glad to see Adam Matthews have a big game. Termed a “Tiger Killer” by Tommy Moody, Adam did not disappoint. I had a great seat for the HR and the almost HR (how that did not go out, I’ll never know-it hit the top of the yellow line and bounced up). While the crowd was pretty stunned after Vergason was tagged out in the 9th and after Matthew’s almost won it, there was a feeling in the air that we were gonna win. The CTU fans pretty much shut it down in the extra frames-preparing themselves for the inevitable. And there it was. LB’s blast over Felder (the bat flipper punk) was pretty sweet. One down, one to go.
Game 2: While lacking the drama of Game 1, this one proved to be big fun as well. Sitting with the Gamecock faithful this time (and right under the Rooster-that’s one cool looking bird), it proved to be another day at the ballpark for this team. After a mid-season slump, Freshman left-hander Jordan Montgomery did his best Michael Roth impression. The kid was simply fantastic. What impressed me most was how cool and collected he looked throughout the game. And when Webb came in from the pen throwing strikes, I had the feeling that it was over. Sure, we had a little excitement there in the 9th, but the crowd didn’t really seem that concerned. A confidence, like nothing I have ever experienced, sort of gripped the stadium. After all these years , I think we finally know what it feels like to be the absolute best at something. Sure we may not win it all this year, but our baseball program is the best there is. That’s what Game 2 felt like.
I think Joey Pankake is becoming my favorite player on this team. The dude rarely has a bad at bat and almost always hits the ball hard. I think we are seeing a star in the making with that guy. It sort of reminds me of watching Walker two years ago. Get ready to enjoy the ride.
We have beaten CTU in the last 6 meaningful baseball games we have played against them. They can say all they want about history and such, but we OWN them in baseball (and in pretty much everything else). To be honest, I never thought I would see this day.
Ray Tanner always seems to push the right buttons. It’s freakin uncanny. In Game 1 the guy next to me couldn’t understand why he let Sullivan, a .177 hitter, bat in the 8th down one run with a runner in scoring position. When he said that, I had two thoughts: 1) Ray likes older players in big spots, 2) Ray was saving Kyle Martin, his last lefty bat, for the 9th. Well, guess what happened….Martin pinch hit for English in the 9th and led off with a hit. We tied the game and advanced to extras.
19 wins in a row in the NCAAs. Back to my point about us being the best. I’m gonna go our there and say that this is a streak that may never be broken. Note to Athletic Department: start looking for an artist to create the Ray Tanner statue. Gonna need it.
Frustrated by the North Carolina-centric nature of the conference, and what was seen as uncompetitive academic standards, South Carolina bolted from the ACC in 1971. After wandering in the wilderness as an independent, and then as a member of the now-defunct Metro Conference, we were in the right place at the right time when the SEC was looking to expand in 1990. As a lifelong Gamecock fan who came of age during the putrid Metro days, I can recall many who bemoaned our departure from the ACC as a stupid move by the USC administration at the time. Well, guess who look like geniuses now?
Paul Dietzel and Frank McGuire, that’s who.
McGuire’s teams were the bad boys of the ACC. They were street toughs from NYC who didn’t take crap from the “whine” and cheese crowd in the Tar Heel state. After getting jobbed repeatedly by the conference powers, McGuire thought that enough was enough and lobbied to get his boys out of the ACC.
In football, a guy named Freddie Solomon was as dominant a high school player as anyone had ever seen. But due to the ACC’s academic standards, which were more stringent that those of the NCAA, Freddie could not play at USC. We all know what happened to Freddie. After a guy named Rice, he’s probably the next best receiver to ever play for the San Francisco 49ers.
When USC pulled out of the ACC, the strong rumor was that Clemson would also be leaving. Supposedly it was a pact. Turns out that CTU left us high and dry; instead, deciding to stay in the ACC after USC boldly (foolishly some say) stepped out as an independent. I can remember some USC folks speaking with bitterness about the perceived double cross pulled off by CTU. For years, you can bet that CTU thought they had really screwed us. I hope they had a lot of fun while it lasted, because we are doing all, and I mean ALL the laughing now.
Sure, we sucked for the first few years we were in the SEC. No doubt about it. We weren’t ready to compete with the big boys and it was painfully obvious to just about anyone who watched. We won a game or two here and there, but overall, we were overmatched. But guess what else was happening while we took our lumps? The Gamecocks were getting paid, and paid well.
The SEC, unlike some other conferences, is basically an equal pay out league. While UT, Bama, and LSU were winning championships and raking in the dough for the conference, Carolina was building its war chest. The SEC also brought credibility. With credibility came coaches like Ray Tanner, Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier. And now, after a long period of paying dues, some success has started to roll in (See Buck Sweep, Golden Age Edition). No more are we the throw-in team needed to get the SEC to 12. Now we are legit.
During our time in the SEC, the national landscape has changed considerably. The SEC is now the unquestioned powerhouse conference in America. And there’s a HUGE gap between first and second. Oh, and where does our former conference, the ACC, now rank? Maybe 5th. And that’s on a good day.
With conference realignment in full swing, the SEC just strengthened its brand by bringing in TAMU and Missouri. The ACC? They now proudly call Syracuse and Pittsburgh members. That’s right, the ACC is now looking a lot like the former Big East of a few years ago. And we all know that the Big East (Least) sucks, big time.
Last week’s announcement of the new SEC/BIG 12 Champions Bowl is yet another crushing blow to everyone not a member of the four power conferences. The message sent by the SEC to the ACC football schools was loud and clear: we have the ball and we ain’t kicking it to you. Meanwhile, CTU and its fans desperately want OUT of the ACC and into the Big 12 (or the SEC). They used to whisper about this while still singing the praises of the ACC in public.
Well, no more. Visit a CTU message board sometime for your viewing pleasure. Those guys are now openly begging for a chance to bolt from the ACC. While publicly stating that they still have the upper hand in football, they are now privately admitting that the power ($$) of the SEC has taken its toll. They cringe when they think about the losses to USC and how those losses have occurred – old-style SEC beat downs.
So, I want to take this opportunity to thank Coach Dietzel and Coach McGuire. Without their guts and vision, we might still be in the ACC and might (like CTU) be on the outside looking in as the world of college athletics is remade.
Because of these men, we have a seat at the table – and the food is tasting pretty darn good.
Baseball America’s Preseason 2012 College All-Star Teams are out and guess who’s NOT on the First, Second, or Third teams? That’s right – two time College World Series hero, 2011 National ERA leader (1.10), and post-season BA first-team All-American, Michael Roth.
Based on these opening sentences, you would think that we at TRC are miffed by this obvious omission. Well, think again. We follow BA pretty closely and think a lot of Aaron Fitt and their college baseball coverage. We really do. That said, we are thanking BA for yet again giving Roth and the Gamecock baseballers some motivation.
Sure, BA came up with an entirely new category of featured players call “Roth Stars,” headlined by none other than – you guessed it - Michael Roth. These “Roth Stars” are guys BA considers great college baseball players but not “top propects.”
Well, there it is again. While Roth is a “great” pitcher, he’s not a “top prospect” in the eyes of BA. This line of thinking by BA is oh-so-familiar around here, and quite frankly just what the Doctor ordered.
I remember a couple of years ago when Blake Cooper was left off all of BA’s post season All-America teams while guys like Drew Pomeranz (First Team) and Gerrit Cole (Second Team) were selected. What happened next? Well, I think we all remember Blake beating UCLA (with Cole on the mound, no less) on three days rest in Game 1 of the CWS Finals. (Oh, for good measure Cooper out dueled Pomeranz as the Gamecocks beat Ole Miss in a masterpiece earlier that season.)
That CWS performance, as well as the 2010 National Championship by the Gamecocks, were chalked up by BA as gritty overachievements by a team of only modest talent. In 2011, there was more of the same from BA. Sure, the Gamecocks were pretty good, but the talent at UVA, Vanderbilt, and Florida (whoa, those STUDS at Florida) was going to be too much.
Even UConn was considered by BA to be superior to the 2011 Gamecocks. I remember listening to a BA Super Regional Preview podcast where Fitt and John Manuel couldn’t resist picking the uber-talented Huskies with future first-rounder George Springer and some 6-6 pitcher who threw something like 150 mph over the “good” but “at the end of the line” Gamecocks. (Lest you guys forgot, the Cocks swept Springer and his mates).
In the 2011 CWS, BA continued to fawn over anyone not in a Gamecock uniform. After all, UVA, with BA’s All-American Boy Danny Hultzen, was on our side of the bracket. There was no way we were going to come out of it.
“Nice work Gamecocks, but here’s where you get off” was the attitude of the BA guys. Of course, BA foresaw a UVA-Florida final since those teams (like UCLA the year before with Cole and ESPN Wunderkind Trevor “I’m the Greatest But I Never Pitched” Bauer) had all the “top prospects.” Well, after disposing of UVA, the scrappy, David-like Gamecocks slew the Goliath-like Gators in two games (including one with Mr. Less than Top Prospect Michael Roth on the mound). So much for those BA prognostications.
We realize that the Gamecock baseball program has gotten some love. Heck, BA featured Roth on the cover of its season preview magazine. Thanks BA, but thanks also for continuing to devalue the Gamecocks on occasion. This team seems to thrive on the notion that the establishment continues to doubt the ability of guys like Roth (there’s no mention of Matt Price either).
BA and others get all caught up in “measurables” and ”draftability” when picking All-Star teams. What writers sometimes overlook are the intangibles like desire, work ethic, and attitude that make a good player into a great player. Remember that First-team BA All-American Mark Zunino sailed a key throw into center field last year in Game 1 of the CWS Finals. Compare that to the stellar defense played by the “no names” on the Gamecock roster. Guys like Wingo, Beary, and Williams.
So, thank you BA for lumping Roth in on the “Roth Stars”, while including some guy from Duke who won 3 games last year compared to Roth’s 12 on your AA team. It’s ok. It really is. The Gamecock baseball team needs to remain anti-establishment as long as it can. That’s our edge. It’s what sets us apart.
Oh, and here’s hoping that Greg Maddux has a son one day who looks kind of scrawny and doesn’t throw too hard. Could be our future #1 starter.