Gamecocks Overcome Late-Season Slide, Beat Clemson

November 29, 2009

The South Carolina Gamecocks are known for having their late-season collapses and falling short in their rivalry with the Clemson Tigers.  This weekend’s win changed that as South Carolina defeated Clemson in Columbia for the first since 2001, with a final score of 34-17.

This victory is not only a big one for the Gamecock seniors, but a much needed confidence booster for one of the youngest teams in the FBS.  In addition to the intangible positives, this win also guarantees a bowl game for the Gamecocks, who finish the regular season with a 7-5 record.

As if the win over the rival Clemson Tigers was not enough, there is also the impressive defensive performance that can potentially end the Heisman campaign of Clemson running back CJ Spiller; he ended with 141 total yards – 18 rushing, 19 receiving and 104 on kick and punt returns.

The game did not start in the Gamecocks’ favor however.  The second opening kickoff, after an offside penalty on the Gamecocks, was returned 88 yards for a touchdown by CJ Spiller.

South Carolina’s first drive came with two scares and ended in disappointment.  Quarterback Stephen Garcia attempted a pass to wide receiver Moe Brown that was dropped by Clemson defensive back Chris Chancellor, which was followed by a fumble that South Carolina was fortunate to retain.  The drive ended with an interception by Clemson safety Rashard Hall.

The Gamecocks responded to their hard times later in the first quarter with a surprising drive which consisted mostly of the “Wild Cock” formation run by freshman cornerback Stephon Gilmore.  Stephen Garcia capped off the drive pitching the ball to running back Brian Maddox on an option for a one-yard touchdown run.

South Carolina scored one last time in the first half when Garcia threw a touchdown pass to tight end Weslye Saunders giving them a quick 17-7 lead over the fifteenth-ranked Clemson Tigers.

The scoring continued into the second half with a 14-yard strike from Garcia to wide receiver Tori Gurley to give the Gamecocks a 24-7 lead.  Clemson would, however add a field goal by kicker Richard Jackson as well as a touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Parker to tight end Michael Palmer.

In the spirit of the heated rivalry, South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier attempted a fourth down conversion at Clemson’s one-yard line and scored a touchdown on a pass from Garcia to Weslye Saunders, their second scoring connection of the day.  This score became a possibility after a great return by wide receiver Alshon Jeffery on a failed onside kick attempt by Clemson.

That final touchdown gave South Carolina their 34-17 lead over Clemson, which ultimately would hold until the end.  In one early afternoon in Williams-Brice Stadium, the South Carolina Gamecocks got two monkeys off their backs by winning a late season game and getting a much needed victory over their in-state rivals.

Stephen Garcia finished the game completing ten of twenty-one passes for 126 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Clemson will travel to Tampa, Florida to play Georgia Tech for the ACC Championship and an automatic berth to the Orange Bowl.

South Carolina will have time before they hit the field.  At 7-5 they have earned a bid to a bowl game and are awaiting offers and a decision on which.  We will keep you posted on this development.


Gamecocks Fall Short of Historical Upset

November 15, 2009

South Carolina entered Williams-Brice Stadium with an upset in their minds, and things were heading in that direction for a while.  But it would not last.

For the first time in South Carolina history, the nation’s top-ranked team visited Williams-Brice.  These Florida Gators narrowly escaped the clutches of the Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier with a 24-14 victory.

The battle was hard-fought by both teams.  Quarterbacks Tim Tebow of Florida and Stephen Garcia entered the game as two of the top players at their position in the SEC.  Tebow got on the scoreboard first with a 68-yard pass to wide receiver Riley Cooper, who dashed his way past the secondary.

Garcia helped his offense return the favor with two key passes on the following drive, a 24-yard to freshman wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and a 17-yard to wide receiver Jason Barnes, the latter of which brought the Gamecocks to the one-yard line.  Junior running back Brian Maddox capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.

Florida continued the scoring with a 32-yard field goal from Caleb Sturgis and a 17-yard touchdown from by running back Emmanuel Moody.  This ten-point lead would last until late in the second quarter when Stephen Garcia, evading a sack, rolled out of the pocket and tossed a beautiful pass in the back corner of the end zone to tight end Weslye Saunders.

The scoring would come to a halt until the fourth quarter when Tim Tebow got a rushing touchdown from one yard out.  This touchdown matched Kevin Faulk’s SEC record of 53 career touchdowns.

South Carolina fought hard and took the top-ranked team and defending national champions to the brink of an upset.  But once again, the slippery hands and unfortunate mishaps would keep the Gamecocks from victory.  The offense put the ball on the ground four times, losing just one.  After the game, Spurrier said “I’m proud of a lot of guys.  A lot of guys played their hearts out.  Unfortunately we didn’t play great and had a bunch of turnovers.”

Florida solidified the momentum and eventually the win was a deflected pass that was intercepted by defensive end Justin Trattou.

Even after a loss, the Gamecocks have many bright spots to look back on, including the youth of the team stepping up when they needed to.  Freshman cornerback Stephon Gilmore led the Gamecocks in tackles with ten, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had six receptions for 57 yards, and kick returner Bryce Sherman provided a spark on special teams that the team desperately needed.

South Carolina also seems to have answered their red zone woes scoring on both drives that entered the troubled area.  They also controlled the ball for most of the game which gives the offense the confidence they will need to go into the rivalry game with Clemson and hope for a win.

In the end, no matter how many bright spots their may be for the future of the South Carolina Gamecocks, Florida still escaped Columbia with a win, finishing a perfect season in the SEC.  The game was close, but getting close does not get you that desired ‘W’.

The undefeated Florida Gators host Florida International next week before the annual battle with Florida State.

South Carolina is now 6-5 and will have their bye week before hosting the rivalry with Clemson.

A Day in the Life: South Carolina vs. Florida

November 14, 2009

We here at Section 26 like to keep our readers involved in the life of radio show hosts.  Today, November 14, 2009, the Florida Gators travel to face the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Sure, it is a home game in Columbia, South Carolina.  But it is also a busy day for the Section 26 crew.  Shawn did not make the trip to Columbia for the game, but Adam and I have already had a hectic Saturday.

Let’s get down to business as I share with you our schedule for the day:

7:00 AM – The day begins.  It’s early for a Saturday, but it’s almost time for the show.

7:40 AM – Arrive on campus, meet with Adam and doing last minute preparations for the show.

8:00 AM – Show time!  Arkansas post game, NBA talk, NCAA Basketball talk, College Football rundown, Florida/South Carolina preview.

10:00 AM – End of the show, leaving the studio.

10:30 AM – Back at the apartment with Adam, watching College Gameday, resting for the game.

12:20 PM – Adam and I leave for Williams-Brice

1:30 PM – After sitting in traffic for the game, we finally get up into the Press Box.  This gameday is already getting serious.  Eating lunch, prepping for the game.

2:30 PM – Photographers and writers getting ready.  One hour to kickoff, Adam heads to the field to watch the teams warm up.  I watch from the Press Box.  Tim Tebow is throwing missiles, but his rotation is as low as ever.  Carolina’s defensive backs and receivers not looking too bad.  The Wounded Warrior Project did a great job with the uniforms, as they fit well and look slick and clean on the players.

3:30 PM – The game starts.  The crowd is in full force, the team is pumped, and everyone is loving the Wounded Warrior Project.

7:06 PM – Three hours and thirty-six minutes after kickoff, the game came to a close.  A hard battle, but the Gators prevailed 24-14.  Adam goes to the post game press conference.

8:08 PM – Adam returns, game review written, ready to be posted.

9:00 PM – Adam and I leaving the stadium.

9:35 PM – Get back to the apartment after a long day of Carolina football.

The loss was tough, but in the end it was a great day.  Great show, great game.  What more could you ask for?  ….  Besides a win?

The Garnet Army Returns in Full Force

November 13, 2009

The start of college basketball season signals the return of the Garnet Army to the Colonial Life Arena. The “Army” was developed around the start of the Southeastern Conference schedule of games last season, to unify the student section for primarily men’s basketball games. Its objective: to create a bigger home-court advantage for the Gamecocks. Since that time, the men’s basketball program lost only one game at home, and attendance swelled. As the Garnet Army moves into its second season and first full season, organizers hope to continue to grow the tradition.

When Darrin Horn was named head coach of the men’s basketball team at the University of South Carolina a little over a year ago, he was adamant about selling out and making the Colonial Life Arena shake on a nightly basis. At his introductory news conference on April 1st, 2008, he put the emphasis on the students’ importance of being the basis of a passionate fan base, saying “Our students are going to be our most important fans. To me and to those guys sitting right there [the players], our students will be our most important fan base. We need our students to drive the energy and to have the Colonial Center rocking every single night.” Coach Horn’s desires became reality with the debut of the Garnet Army on January 21st, 2009 in a game against Florida.

The concept of a unified student section started in a November 2008 meeting which had Jeremy Long, Student Government Secretary of Athletics, Eric Nichols, the Director of Marketing, and Horn among those present. The first decision to be made was to locate what part of the Colonial Life Arena would be designated as the student section. The next step was to determine its name. After throwing around some ideas, the decision was made to let the students submit ideas as to what this new student section should be called. After reviewing the many ideas that were submitted, the name ‘Garnet Army’ was chosen.

Long, whose job duties include boosting student attendance at sporting events, said there were two main purposes for the new name. Long said, “The name had to be marketable and represent the university well, which is what [Student Government and the Athletics Department] wanted to show.” The next step was developing a t-shirt. After debating over several designs, Long, along with others, settled on the garnet, black, and white camouflage design, to which Nichols says “the shirt is so ugly, it’s cool.” Long also said that Coach Horn was very supportive of fully integrating the students as a part of the basketball program, describing the student body as Horn’s “second team.”

After the Garnet Army caught on, it became an excellent marketing tool, according to Nichols. Darrin Horn organized a ‘Garnet Army Boot Camp,’ in February 2009, designed to encourage the students to continue to be a part of the atmosphere needed to compete in the Southeastern Conference. In fact, five students took part in a 5-on-5 drill with members of the Gamecocks’ Basketball team.

More recently, the Garnet Army Season Ticket Tour began to make a push for fans to buy season tickets for the 2009-10 basketball season. The tour goes around Columbia in a Garnet Army Hummer and stops at different locations to sell tickets as well as featuring the University’s mascot, Cocky, the cheerleaders, and different games to win prizes. Nichols believes that the creation of the Garnet Army has made basketball relevant again. He said, “It gives basketball an identity to help break through the football shadow. Football is so huge around here, and [The Garnet Army] is something different and it’s something that sets [basketball] apart.” Nichols said that he hopes that the early success that the Garnet Army has garnered will continue to grow as the basketball program does.

Much like what Duke has created with the ‘Cameron Crazies’ and Pittsburgh has with their student cheering section, ‘Oakland,’ the Garnet Army has unified the fans and provided a greater home-court advantage at the Colonial Life Arena according to James, a host for WUSC’s sports show “Section 26.” “The Garnet Army has mostly brought a sense of unity amongst the fans,” said James. “Anything like that can give a home-court advantage to anybody; I think the players really pick up on that and feed off that sort of energy.”

The type of play that came from the Gamecocks following the creation of the Garnet Army certainly shows the improvement. The end-of-season statistics for the men’s basketball team shows they had only one loss against Tennessee, in the eight home games with the Garnet Army present (This does not count the postseason tournament game against Davidson. Even though it was considered a home game for South Carolina, students had to pay for tickets and the design is to keep the game as neutral as possible).

Long believes that it would have taken much longer for the idea of the Garnet Army to catch on if it was not for the January 21st game against Florida in which the initiative debuted. “Honestly, we were very lucky we brought it out with the Florida game,” said Long. “I believe if we brought it out at any other game it would have caught on, but there would not have been the excitement.”

As both Long and Nichols say, the nationally-recognized student section for the South Carolina basketball programs will continue to aid in the growth of the student support, the basketball programs themselves, and the ability to bring more fans in to show that the University of South Carolina is on the rise.

James’ NCAA Conference Realignment Theory, Part Three

November 7, 2009

If you have been following the Conference Realignment Theory, you know that so far I have cleaned up the six BCS conferences.

To sum up, the Pac-10 added Boise State and Utah, the Big Ten added Iowa State, the Big East added Army, Navy, Notre Dame and East Carolina, and the Big 12 replaced Baylor with TCU and Iowa State with BYU.

All that remains are the five, soon to be four, non-BCS conferences.

I want to premise these steps by saying that the Mountain West Conference is being removed, essentially fusing together with the Western Athletic Conference.  With that out in the open, let us begin:

Conference USA – The only change in the BCS conferences that effected C-USA was the addition of East Carolina to the Big East.  This left a void in the Eastern Division that I have elected to fill with Bowling Green.  The explanation for this decision comes in the Mid-American Conference changes.

Mid-American Conference – As previously stated, Bowling Green has been removed from the MAC Eastern Division and put into C-USA’s Eastern Division.  This decision was made because the MAC currently consists of thirteen teams, one above the standard set in this theory.  The remaining teams have been paired up which you can see in the image below.

Sun Belt Conference – The Sun Belt currently has only nine teams after adding Western Kentucky before the 2009 season.  The teams I chose to add to the Sun Belt were New Mexico, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech.  The twelve teams were then divided into the two divisions, the Eastern Division having Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee State, Troy and Western Kentucky, while the Western Division has Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana Monroe, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico, New Mexico State and North Texas.  The inter-divisional rivalries can bee see in the image below.

Western Athletic Conference – For the sake of simplicity, you can view the new WAC as a combination of the WAC and the old Mountain West Conference.  I chose to use the WAC name because it is more general to the area containing the teams in the conference.  The WAC Eastern Division houses Air Force, Baylor, Colorado State, UNLV, Utah State and Wyoming.  The WAC Western Division has Fresno State, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, San Diego State, and San Jose State.  The rivalries can be seen in the image below.

This theory, I feel cleans up Division I-A football and sets a more fair basis for determining the championship and other BCS games.  Every conference now has a conference championship game, which I feel is a necessity to being crowned a conference champion, as it removes the issue of split championships, recently seen in the Pac-10 when Southern California and Arizona State split the 2007 Pac-10 crown.

This theory also gives previous “BCS Busters” a legitimate chance at earning their BCS bids by winning a BCS conference championship.  In addition to that, this raises the legitimacy of their strength of schedule, a factor that has been at the center of such teams as Boise State and Utah.

At the bottom of this article is an image of each team in its respective conference paired with its inter-divisional rival.  The helmets used in the image were provided by The Helmet Project.

Also, stayed tuned for a “BCS Playoff Theory” which stems directly from this “Conference Realignment Theory.”  The playoff system would provide an even more fair road to the BCS, without removing any current bowl game, and there for no financial gain to the BCS.conference table

A Day in the Life: South Carolina vs. Tennessee

November 3, 2009

As a way to try and spin any possible positive from the embarrassment that was Tennessee beating South Carolina on Halloween Night at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, I figured a little ‘day in the life’ story might do the trick.

On Saturday, I made the trip up to Knoxville to cover this game. I had never been a part of the press at an away game, so ever experience was something new. Therefore, this post will shed a little light on what it is like to be a member of the press.

Here is how I spent my Game-day Saturday, October 31st.

7:20 AM: I set out on a journey from Columbia, SC to get to Knoxville, TN. I already have figured out with the rock-slide detour, a routine 4 hour drive will take 5 hours.

8:15 AM: I stop at the Newberry, SC rest area on I-26 to call into the show. After a few technical glitches, we all figure out a way to have me talk on the airwaves of WUSC.

9:00 AM: Entering North Carolina, and yes, it is raining.

9:10 AM: Once again, I stop at a rest area. This one is about 10 miles inside the NC-SC border. I call into WUSC again, and talk about the BCS for a few minutes.

10:00 AM: I stop at the Asheville rest area, this time its only because I have to use the bathroom. It’s also is beginning to rain, a problem that would plague the entire trip.

10:30 AM: Due to the rock slide, the detour part of the trip begins. After making the trip to Knoxville so many times, my mind says I just need to take the exit ramp on the left for I-40 West. Instead, I am left trying to dodge across 4 lanes of traffic on I-26 to take the detour in Asheville, NC.

11:00 AM: Still raining as I cross the Tennessee border, I should already be just a few minutes outside of Knoxville, but instead, I am an hour from getting on I-81.

12:00 PM: Getting on I-81 in the Johnson City/Bristol area (Would I love to stop at Bristol Motor Speedway). I stop at a rest area again to stretch the legs.

12:45 PM: Finally I reach I-40 for the home stretch into Knoxville, TN. It is still raining.

1:30 PM: I arrive at where I am spending the night on the west side of Knoxville. A routine drive takes 6 hours, but there were reasons for that. (By the way, I took the same route back to Columbia on Sunday and made it back in under 5 hours).

2:00 PM: Relaxing for a few minutes because I knew I had a long day ahead of me.

3:30 PM: Head down to the vicinity of Neyland Stadium to hang out with friends in Knoxville and friends from Columbia who have made the journey.

5:00 PM: Decided that now would be a good time to head over to the stadium. When parking in the garage, I pray that no one would notice the South Carolina sticker on the rear window.

6:00 PM: Pre-game spread. Enough said.

7:00 PM: Take my seat on press row to watch the pre-game warm-ups. Tennessee has on their orange uniforms at this point.

7:30 PM: Watching the UT band makes me realize that USC’s band cannot compare to the choreography of the Volunteers.

7:45 PM: Tennessee shocks the world by coming out in the black uniforms.

7:52 PM: Kickoff, hopefully this will be a good game and I can eat the words I said earlier in the morning on “Section 26”

8:15 PM: OH NO!! It’s 14-0 UT and we have fumbled the football twice in the opening 4 minutes.

9:00 PM: UT is up 21-0, but in talking with the guy sitting next to me, decide that the game is far from over.

9:15 PM: Convinced that the way the game has gone, Spencer Lanning’s 47-yard field goal will not go through. Luckily it does and the half-time score is 21-3 Tennessee.

9:20 PM: Halftime Spread…Enough said once again.

9:45 PM: Settle back in for the second half.

10:00 PM: Beginning to realize that time is running out as Lanning hits another field goal, which is quickly answered by Tennessee. Score is 28-6 UT.

10:15 PM: South Carolina finally has their one and only highlight as Moe Brown catches a 31-yard pass from Stephen Garcia. Once again, I am hopeful that Carolina still has a shot with the score being 28-13.

10:30 PM: One of the media guys sitting next to me is finding it hard to believe that the ‘New Carolina’ still looks a whole lot like the ‘Old Carolina.’

10:45 PM: UT is beginning to overpower the Gamecocks as my respect for Lane Kiffin is rising.

11:00 PM: In the last 5 minutes of the game, I go onto the field at Neyland. Tennessee scores for the final time as the game’s end draws near. Final score would be 31-13 Tennessee. The worst part is I was bouncing to “Rocky Top” while on the field.

11:15 PM: Steve Spurrier comes in for his post-game press conference. He was not happy.

11:45 PM: Players and coaches have basically echoed Spurrier’s thoughts as I make the climb back up to the press box.

12:00 AM (Sunday): Looking over all of the post-game notes. Yes, the Tennessee press box offers a post-game spread as well.

1:00 AM: Still just hanging out at the press box, talking with people who were down on the field and getting their thoughts on the game. This is when I realize its getting late (or early, depending on how you look at it).

1:30 AM: Return to my car and make the trip back to the West Hills area of Knoxville.

2:00 AM: Actually, that would be 1 AM with the time change, but I have finally put head to pillow after a long game and night.

In the end, it is all about the experience and the experience I gained in being a prospective journalist. The Gamecocks might not have won, but they are now half-way back to Columbia while I am left to wonder what could have been. This is also the point that I respect Lane Kiffin and what he is doing to revive the Tennessee program. I might not agree with some of his methods, but that team will be great in only a few years.

So I hope you found this at least a little interesting. This is definitely not the experience of everybody else, but it is for sure something I will remember for a long time as I covered my first road game.