Top 10 Sports Moments in South Carolina for 2010

December 31, 2010

As mentioned on Wednesday, December 29th’s edition of “Section 26 Sports”, here are the Top 10 Moments from sports in South Carolina for 2010.  As with the previous list, these are purely the opinions of the “Section 26 Sports” hosts.  Others might have certain things in different orders, added something, or omitted something.

10.  Denny Hamlin sweeps Mother’s Day Weekend at Darlington.

You knew that Hamlin would be a star when in his first race at Darlington, in a Nationwide Series car, finished in the top-10.  His performances at the track continued when he won the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington on Mother’s Day Weekend.

9.  Kyle Parker gets drafted in MLB, returns to Clemson.

Kyle Parker went to Clemson because they gave him an opportunity to be a two-sport star in baseball and football.  He has succeeded at both.

Parker was drafted in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft’s first round by the Colorado Rockies.  He wanted to play baseball, but wanted to play football, too.

Down to the last second of negotiations, Parker signed his contract with Colorado, but it allowed him to return to Clemson to play football in 2010.

Looking back on it, might not have been the best decision.

8.  South Carolina upsets #1 Kentucky in basketball.

Less than 36 hours from becoming the number-0ne team in the country, and less than 8 hours from speaking with President Barack Obama, Kentucky was beaten by South Carolina 68-62.

A $25,000 celebration later, and the Gamecocks are all over television, for managing to pull the upset.  Click here for the post following the game.

7.  Oliver Purnell leaves Clemson.

This story somewhat flew under the radar, but was very important nevertheless.

Following the Tigers’ season, Purnell left Clemson for DePaul, a program in the cellar of the Big East Conference.

For Purnell, it is a good move.  If he can turn around DePaul, it will put him in the upper echelon of coaches in college basketball, simply for his ability to take a bad program and make them winners.

6.  Marcus Lattimore recruiting-trail.

Where would the Byrnes star running back go was the question much of the first part of the year.  At the end, it came down to Auburn or South Carolina.

In front of his church, in a much lower-scale “The Decision” moment, Lattimore announced that he would attend South Carolina.

I guess you could say the rest is history.

5.  Clemson and South Carolina take the rivalry to Omaha.

In a repeat of an earlier College World Series, the 2010 edition would feature either Clemson or South Carolina in the finale.

South Carolina beat Clemson in back-to-back games to advance to the final, guided by a Michael Roth masterpiece in the first game, where they would eventually be crowned National Champions.

4.  Notable Deaths of South Carolina sport’s leaders.

2010 saw the loss of three noted people in South Carolina sport’s history.  Legendary radio voice of the Gamecocks Bob Fulton, former Gamecocks wide receiver Kenny McKinley, and former Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams all passed away.

McKinley’s and Adams’ death were both very shocking.  Adams, 26, passed away in January due to cardiac arrest.  McKinley, 23, passed away just a few months ago when he committed suicide.

Fulton’s death at age 89 meant the loss of a person whose eyes had seen many Gamecocks feats, and whose voice described the moments that Gamecock fans who could not attend the game, feel like they were in the front row.

3.  South Carolina upsets the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide.

In a year that saw the Gamecocks upset three number-one teams, the upset of Alabama was special.  The game drew ESPN’s College GameDay, a national CBS audience, and a sell-out crowd.

It was a game that proved to the SEC and the country that the Gamecocks would be a force, with their 35-21 victory over Alabama.

2.  South Carolina wins the SEC East.

Although it was very bittersweet, the Gamecocks achieved something it had never done before, making it to the SEC Championship game.  Unfortunately, they had to face an unstoppable Auburn team.

It is easy to go back and forth about how to rank this, considering the Gamecocks were the best in a mediocre division and were not competitive in the game.  Click here for the story on the Gamecocks securing the SEC East title.

1.  South Carolina Gamecocks are National Champions in College Baseball.

In all honesty, this was a no-brainer in determining this list.  The Gamecocks first national championship in a major sport ever, was the team’s back-to-back wins over UCLA in the final College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium.

Click here for the story immediately following the championship, and explaining why the city of Columbia had a right to go crazy over baseball.

There you have, the 10 reasons why 2010 in South Carolina sports will be remembered for a long-time.


Chick-Fil-A Bowl Preview/Pick: South Carolina vs. Florida State

December 30, 2010

ATLANTA, GA. — Of the 35 different bowl games this year, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl between #19 South Carolina and #23 Florida State is likely the one game that is so evenly matched, that it is near impossible to pick a winner.

Florida State and South Carolina both lost in their respective conference championship games, both have had great games, and both have had disasters.

Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher is in his first year, replacing the legendary Bobby Bowden, leading the Seminoles to the ACC Conference Championship game, where they lost to Virginia Tech.

South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier seems to have the Gamecocks’ program on track, getting the team to its first SEC Championship Game, with an embarrassing loss to Auburn.

Looking ahead to this game, Jimbo Fisher said in his press conference on Thursday that senior Quarterback Christian Ponder would be ready to play.  Fisher has not decided whether Ponder or E.J. Manuel would get the start, but that both would play.

The only injury for South Carolina would be OG Garrett Chisolm, who re-aggravated a knee injury earlier in the week.  Terrence Campbell will get the start, but expect to see Jarriel King play as well.

The difference in this game will be the defense.  Will South Carolina finally figure out the defensive secondary that has plagued them the second half of the season?  Will South Carolina be able to establish an offense against a historically tough Florida State defense?

While Spurrier downplays a difference between Ponder and Manuel, there is a small difference.  Manuel has more of an ability to get out of the pocket, while Ponder can beat you with his arm.  According to Spurrier, South Carolina’s coaches say that Ponder and Manuel are more similar rather than different.

On paper, these teams are very similar in offensive and defensive categories.  As previously mentioned, each team has had its highs and its lows, and each made it to their Conference Championship game by being in mediocre divisions.

In the end, SEC prevails.  The speed of the SEC will off-set the balance of the ACC.  However, this game could easily go either way, and expect a back and forth affair.

South Carolina wins the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, 24-23.

Top 10 Sports Stories in 2010

December 30, 2010

As presented on Wednesday, December 29th’s edition of “Section 26 Sports,” this is the top ten sports stories in the calendar year, 2010.  Once again, this is purely the opinion of the “Section 26” hosts.  Others may have the stories in a different order, some might have different stories, others may have a different ranking.

Here they are:

10.  Isner-Mahut never ending battle at Wimbledon.

It was an early match, but it went on forever, literally.  France’s Nicolas Mahut and the United States’ John Isner battled for eleven hours and five minutes.  The fifth set alone was eight hours and eleven minutes.

Neither player could break the other’s serve, until Isner finally did.  Isner won three sets to two.  Isner beat Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68.

9.  Who wants to be number one?

For three straight weeks, no team in college football wanted to claim the title as the number one team in the country.

First, it was South Carolina beating Alabama on October 9th, 35-21, with ESPN’s College GameDay set-up in the University of South Carolina’s Horseshoe.

Then, for consecutive weeks on ABC’s Saturday Night Football, the number one team went down.  It was Wisconsin defeating Ohio State, 31-18, in Madison, Wisconsin.

Finally, on October 23rd, Missouri upset Oklahoma, 36-27.

In all three occassions, the number-one team, was beat easily by teams that may or may not have been better.

8.  Baseball says good-bye to two of its greatest managers.

Bobby Cox and Lou Piniella have seen a lot in their baseball careers.  Neither the best player, both became pretty good managers (sarcasm).

Cox, led the Atlanta Braves to the 1995 World Series Championship and 14 consecutive divisional titles.  Cox retired at the end of the season, winning 2,504 games, which is 4th all-time.  Cox also holds the record for most ejections at 158.

Piniella probably had many more exciting ejections compared to Cox.  Piniella might be for famous for tossing first base as he was tossed by random umpires.

Piniella finished 14th all time in managerial wins with 1,835.  He won the 1990 World Series with the Cincinnati Reds.  He also managed the Cubs, Rays, Mariners, and Yankees.

7.  Butler’s Gordon Hayward almost beats Duke.

The 2010 NCAA Men’s Division I Tournament featured the “Cinderalla-story” Butler Bulldogs and the love-or-hate Duke Blue Devils.

It was a desperation shot by Butler’s Hayward to attempt to beat the Blue Devils.  The shot, which no one thought had a shot, bounces off the rim.  Duke becomes National Champions again, beating Butler 61-59.

6.  a) Pitching Perfection in 2010

It was an unprecedented season for pitching in Major League Baseball.  There were six no-hitters, two of which were perfect games.  Oakland’s Dallas Braden (on Mother’s Day) and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay each threw perfect games in the month of May.

Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez, Arizona’s Edwin Jackson, and Tampa’s Matt Garza all threw no-hitters this season.  Halladay also threw a no-hitter in the National League Division Series against Cincinnati.  This game was pitched better than his perfect game.

6.  b)  The Perfect Game that was not.

How would you like to get 26 consecutive outs, just one away from getting perfection as a major league pitcher.  It was done twice, and a young Detroit Tigers’ pitcher was about to have one of the most economic perfect games in history.

On June 2nd, Armando Galarraga got those 26 consecutive outs.  He only had to get Cleveland’s Jason Donald out to finish the job.  A ground ball in which Galarraga had to cover first base.  It was a close play and Donald is called safe by first base umpire Jim Joyce.  Galarraga appeared destined to end up with guys like Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling, who came oh-so-close, but not perfect.

And then the replay.  It showed that Galarraga’s foot touched the bag prior to Donald’s foot.  He should have been called safe by Jim Joyce.  However, after the game Joyce apologized, admitting that he took a perfect game away from Galarraga.  Galarraga responded with “nobody’s perfect.”

5.  Jimmie Johnson becomes 5-time consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.

Many people thought entering the year that this would be the year Johnson doesn’t win.  Not so fast.

Denny Hamlin appeared in control of the points heading to Homestead.  However, the pressure appeared to get to Hamlin, and the guy who had been there the last 4 years, made it number five.  A feat that no driver has ever accomplished, five consecutive championships.

4.  Brett Favre.

Whenever you think you can make it a week without Brett Favre being mentioned, there he is.  The media darling created by ESPN didn’t fail us again this year.

Once again, it was whether he would come back.  Then when he came back, would the ankle and shoulder hold-up.  Next came the Jenn Sterger controversy, of whether or not he sent suggestive photos to the former New York Jets’ employee.

Then, he was not as invincable as thought.  After 297 consecutive starts, a shoulder injury forced Favre to be inactive.  After that week, he couldn’t resist the idea of being announced out, and then suddenly hours before the game, he can suddenly play.  Followed by another game, he couldn’t play because of a concussion.

3.  Tiger Woods.

Not a whole lot to be said here, other than Woods went through with the advances Favre did not.  He made his return to golf, and did not win one tournament.

He was semi-competitive in the major tournaments, but a non-factor in all of the others.  It was not until some of the off-the-course problems resolved themselves (divorce becoming final), that he began to look a little better.

2.  The Decision – LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh.

While figuring it was the best way to announce the rest of his life, LeBron James felt that a one-hour infomercial would improve his image.

All it led to was public ridicule and embarassment as James announced that he would be going to the Miami Heat.  Wade and Bosh just went along for the ride.

At first the ‘big three’ did not produce.  It was a disastrous start for the Heat.  However, in the last month, the play has picked up and the Heat are beginning to look like the team everyone predicted them to be.

1.  The New Orleans Saints win Super Bowl XLIV.

The lovable losers that once were the ‘New Orleans Aints’ finally broke through to win Super Bowl XLIV against the mighty Indianapolis Colts.

However, the story is about what the Saints went through to get there.  A hurricane that knocked a city off of their feet and a team out of their stadium gave the people of New Orleans a bright spot in their eyes.

Any NFL fan and any person who likes a heart-warming story could not be disappointed by the Saints and the city of New Orleans winning the Super Bowl.

There you have it, the Top 10 Stories, according to “Section 26 Sports.”  Happy New Year everyone!

When Spurrier Leaves, Who is his Replacement?

December 11, 2010

With the unexpected resignation of Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer, it reminds you that anything in the coaching business can change unexpectedly.

While South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier is not expected to leave the school anytime soon, it is never too soon to discuss viable candidates that could succeed Spurrier.

There are a couple in-house candidates as well as coaches who currently have other jobs.  We will look at three different candidates for each category.

In-House Candidates (Coaches currently with the school)

Shane Beamer, Special Teams Coordinator, Recruiting Coordinator, Spurs & Strong Safeties Coach – Beamer has a long title, but it is well deserved.

Beamer, the son of Virginia Tech Head Coach Frank Beamer, has made big strides in improving the special teams of the Gamecocks.

He has also raised the bar in recruiting for the Gamecocks.  After many failures with recruits from David Reaves, Beamer has brought in better athletes and athletes with good heads on their shoulders.

Beamer has the background and is a rising star in the coaching ranks.  South Carolina should do whatever is necessary to keep Beamer around for the long haul.

G.A. Mangus, Quarterbacks Coach – The main difference in Gamecocks’ QB Stephen Garcia’s development is Mangus.  When Mangus was hired, he was dubbed as Garcia’s baby-sitter.

There has also been a noticable difference when Mangus calls plays as opposed to Steve Spurrier.  Mangus tries to run the ball much more than Spurrier attempts.

Mangus, a Spurrier disciple, is only in his second season at South Carolina, but his presence has been felt.  He is very similar to Beamer in his reputation in the coaching world.  He is a rising star and will be a candidate for offensive coordinator jobs around the country.

Steve Spurrier Jr., Wide Receivers Coach – The only reason Spurrier Jr. is put in this list is because of his last name.

Much like the Lou and Skip Holtz experience, Spurrier Jr. has lost stock in his coaching capabilities.  While you could say his receiving core is among the best in the country, you have to look at improvements in recruiting.

Spurrier Jr. has also lost tasks within his tenure at South Carolina.  He was once the play-caller, but the idea of him calling plays any time soon won’t happen.

Like I said, the only reason he is a listed candidate, is last names go a long way in figuring out coaching pedigree.  See Derek Dooley, Head Coach for the University of Tennessee.

Outside Candidates

Gary Patterson, Head Coach, TCU – Patterson has guided TCU to multiple undefeated seasons, and multiple BCS games.

His name always comes up when big-time jobs come up every year.  Yet he remains at TCU, who will be in the Big East, a BCS conference soon.

However, when Spurrier leaves, he will be linked to this job.  Patterson was hired by current South Carolina Athletics Director Eric Hyman when Hyman held that position at TCU.

Hyman has made statements in the past that Patterson and him still communicate.  It would be no surprise if he follows Hyman to South Carolina.

Chris Peterson, Head Coach, Boise State – There is no secret about the success Peterson has had at Boise State after he inherited the job from Dan Hawkins, the now-former Colorado Head Coach.

It is worth pointing out that if Peterson balks at talking to Florida about their current head coaching vacancy, one would begin to wonder if Peterson would ever leave Boise State.

Not just for Florida, but for everyone, Peterson is at the top of the coaching wish list.  However, after the failure of Hawkins, you wonder if he is not willing to step-out of his comfort zone.

Brent Venables, Associate Head Coach, Defensive Coordinator, Linebackers Coach, Oklahoma – It is important to mention an up-and-coming coach to the conversation of potential replacements for Steve Spurrier.

Venables has been at Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops’ side now for several years.  He is recognized as one of the top defensive coaches in the country.

Hyman has shown that he has been willing to hire up-and-coming coaches.  This differs from the mindset of former South Carolina Athletics Director Mike McGee, who often hired the “big name” coach.  See Lou Holtz, Former South Carolina Head Coach.

The question would be whether or not you could pry Venables away from Oklahoma.  He is a likely candidate to replace Stoops, whenever that situation arises.

Venables would bring a defensive mind to South Carolina, an aspect that a South Carolina head coach has not had for several years.

There you have it.  While Spurrier is not expected to leave South Carolina anytime soon, it is important to realize that he is not getting any younger.

He has earned the right to coach the Gamecocks as long as he wants, but one day, the need of a new head coach will arise.

SEC Championship Pick

December 3, 2010

ATLANTA, GA. — This year’s SEC Championship Game between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Auburn Tigers is a game that has become hard to pick.  I have to overcome my heart, my gut, and the composition of the teams to make a well-educated selection.

Through the regular season, my picks went 9-3, the only games I messed up were games against Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida.

First, my heart.  I make no pretense of the fact that I attend the University of South Carolina.  When I am not working in the media, I cheer on the Gamecocks each and every week.

I would love nothing more than to see the Gamecocks win the SEC Championship Game and advance to the Sugar Bowl.

Second, looking at the two teams, you must go back to the September 27th game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.  South Carolina led throughout, but poor play by Gamecocks’ QB Stephen Garcia aided Auburn’s comeback, 35-27.

However, since that game, both teams have improved dramatically.  Auburn entered that game needing overtime to defeat the Clemson Tigers.  The Gamecocks really had no stellar performances leading up to that game.

Tigers’ QB Cam Newton has wowed the world this year, with his elusive moves and cannon arm.  He has also been helped by freshman running back Michael Dyer.

The Gamecocks’ offense goes through Marcus Lattimore, the freshman phenom.  In all three of South Carolina’s losses, Marcus Lattimore was a non-factor.  The Gamecocks must get him running to have a chance in this game.

Defensively, the Gamecocks’ pass defense woes have been well documented.  This has improved in the latter part of the year, as Assistant Head Coach for Defense Ellis Johnson increased the amount of blitzes up front, easing the burden on the struggling defensive backs.

Auburn has been great against the run all year long.  The front four, led by Nick Fairley, have caused problems for offensive lines all season.

Overall, this game favors South Carolina if the scoring stays low.  Considering these two teams met once this season, both coaches know what each offers.  Auburn, on the other hand, wants this game to be in the hands of the offenses.  The Tigers want this game to be high-scoring.

Finally, the gut.  The Gamecocks have a chip on their shoulder after losing the game earlier this season against Auburn.  It was a game that they had won.

Cam Newton’s off the field issues appear to have been resolved, so it will be interesting to see how he responds.

Then, look at the country at a whole.  They want South Carolina to win, allowing TCU to be in the BCS National Championship game.  They want South Carolina to beat, who some, despite this week’s news, a cheater in Cam Newton.

Many times, I doubt my gut, because the statistics are so overwhelming in one team’s favor.

I’m not letting that happen this time.  South Carolina 27, Auburn 21.

Podcast for 11.30.10

December 2, 2010

Tonight it’s all about SEC Championship, and those other conference title games.

Click here for the Podcast.