Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gamecock Fans Should Enjoy this Era

Watching Carolina’s relatively easy 14-3 win in Knoxville on Saturday night, I found myself thinking about just how successful the Steve Spurrier era in Columbia has been.  Don’t think so?  Try juxtaposing it against our football history.  Like it or not, the program has never enjoyed this kind of consistent success.
The Head Ball Coach is 51-34 in Columbia in just under seven seasons.  That 60% winning percentage may not seem daunting, but it is a heck of an improvement over 65-82, which was Carolina’s overall record in the 13 SEC years before he arrived.  In conference games under Spurrier, Carolina is 28-26 with two games left this year.  Again, that might not seem great but pre-Spurrier saw the Gamecocks run up a 36-67-1 SEC record.

It gets even better when looking at how he has dealt with Carolina’s SEC rivals and Clemson.   From 1992-2004, Carolina had a grand total of 9 wins over Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and Clemson.  In roughly half that time, Spurrier has landed 12 wins over those same teams-  2 wins over Florida, 4 wins over Tennessee (including 2 straight), 3 wins over Georgia (including 2 straight), and 3 wins over Clemson (including 2 straight).
Now no one is saying everything is perfect or that we shouldn’t want to do more and keep building.  It is just interesting that the football program is in the best shape it has ever been right now and many Gamecock fans just cannot enjoy it.  I have said many times that Clemson fans are always one game away from claiming they are on a winning streak, while Gamecock fans seem to always view USC as one game away from a new losing streak. 
Having watched this program go through ups and downs for nearly 35 years, I have had the “pleasure” of sitting through some rotten football and horrible seasons.  If you had told me in 1999 that we would be 7-1, ranked in the top 10 and leading the SEC East I would have assumed Gamecock fans would be wallowing in happiness and soaking up every second of every game. 
Instead I detect a palatable fear of each week as the landmine that is going to blow everything up and start us on a freefall tailspin back to the 90s.  The next game is a great example of what I mean.  If you’re a Gamecock fan, ask yourself if you view the trip to Fayetteville as a chance to do something great, or have you written the game off as a probable loss so you won’t be disappointed?  I can tell you our Coach intends to go over there and win on Saturday and so does the team.  They aren’t thinking about how they will handle a loss.  They are going to do everything they can to go get a win, and isn’t it nice to finally have a program like that in Columbia?   Enjoy it, don’t endure it!


Friday, October 28, 2011

Why Knoxville Matters

I understand that winning in Neyland Stadium is always a big deal and is always important.  This year, maybe for the first time since Carolina joined the SEC, it’s almost as important “not to lose.”  Gamecock fans already feel that way about trips to Vandy and Kentucky so it’s not a foreign concept.  (Last year’s loss in Lexington is still seethed about by the Garnet and Black feathered followers as something that is inexcusable and should never happen.)
But Tennessee?  Rocky Top?  Lulu and Junior-land?  If you’re like me and you were there when Taneyhill and crew fell just a bit short at 55-3, or painfully watched us lose in OT twice with great chances to pull upsets…it’s just different trying to feel that way about the Vols. 
Also, we have one win in that stadium ever.  ONE!  Josh Brown’s FG is one of my favorite memories as a Gamecock (along with Sidney Rice’s tantalizing tightrope walk on the back end line after we used two timeouts ahead of the throw).  So you’ll just have to forgive me if I’m not yet comfortable with this situation.  Moving from “perennial loser” to “winning program” seems like it would be an easy thing to do, but it actually involves a ton of these “mental battles” among the fan base. 
A current Gamecock student from the Lowcountry told me something recently that I think accounts for this “divide” between the negative and positive fans.  Students who entered USC as freshmen in Columbia this fall were born in 1993.  That means several things that make me feel old but explain their new optimism:
  • They were born AFTER Carolina entered the SEC in 1992.
  • Their first real memories of Gamecock football were 2000 and 2001, the Outback Bowl years.
  • They have only really known two Gamecock coaches- Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier.  They were mostly 5 years old when Holtz was hired.
They weren’t around or paying attention for any of that horrible negative history us older fans have endured.   They just expect us to do well.  Imagine that.  For once, maybe us “Old Dogs” should learn some of their “New Tricks.”  A second win in Knoxville would help us make that transition.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Cock-a-booster's Crystal Ball says...



The Ozark Piglets will squeal into the Grand Ole Opry this weekend, hoping to root out some pigskin truffles on the SEC’s academia cruiseliner.   The brainy boat captains have showed some spark this year but 2012 and beyond is the gridiron horizon they are seeking.   

The Cock-a-Booster’s crystal ball says...Arkansas by 13.

FLORIDA vs. GEORGIA (Jacksonville, FL)
The Lizards from Tebowtown slither into Jacksonville on Saturday, hoping the Outdoor Cocktail Party will be a swampy affair.  They will find out that the Athens Alpos have other ideas, and the red howlers have a loud bark.  Almost everyone thinks the pups are too strong to be neutered, but if they aren’t careful it will be a St. John’s River surprise.   
The Cock-a-Booster’s crystal ball says...Georgia by 3.

The War Eagle Kittens from East Alabama open up the Plains Scratching Post on Saturday, hoping to give a good clawing to the invading Oxford Brigade.  Johnny Reb showed some life last week during a spirited piggy hunt, but they may have used up all their ammo in the process.  Too much Toomer’s lemonade here.   
The Cock-a-Booster’s crystal ball says... Auburn by 8.

The Starkville K-9’s missed their last chance to salvage 2011 last weekend and they will be whimpering along on cruise control until the Egg Bowl.  The good news is that when they limp into Lexington, they will find the Bluegrass Meows have been declawed themselves.  Normally a dog vs. cat matchup makes for some fireworks, but this one appears to be a fizzler. 
The Cock-a-Booster’s crystal ball says...Mississippi State by 14.
Cocky and his Columbia Cluckers flock into the hills this weekend, hoping to corral Old Smokey’s Mountain Gunners before they get to shooting.  The Deliverance Deputies always defend the home trailer well, but the Richland Roosters have some long pigskin spurs. In the end the visiting poultry should be able to leave the Red Tick Hounds howling.   
 The Cock-a-Booster’s crystal ball says...South Carolina by 4.

My crystal ball is saying something about orange garlic and me being a vampire.  No pick needed here as there is always plenty of nose-picking at a Klimpsun game.  And I don't mean just the cheerleaders. 
The Cock-a-Booster’s crystal ball says...STAY AWAY...STAY VERY FAR AWAY!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Everything is all set up for Connor Shaw

No matter which faction you put yourself as a Gamecock fan, you have to like and be pulling for Connor Shaw.  And no, that is not the norm in Columbia.  Is there a starting QB in Columbia who has been talked about less than #14?  When you’re talking about our insanely bitter, negative and divided fan base, that’s a good thing.

What a strange year this is so far and all of it has provided the perfect situation for such an anonymous signal caller.  If Carolina has a big finish, only loses one more (maybe in Fayetteville), wins the East, pulls another “Omaha” on Clemson and gets to 10 or more wins, Shaw will deservedly get the credit for taking over an apparent mess and leading us home.  If not and things go sour, all the turmoil over Stephen Garcia’s dismissal, Ron Morris and Marcus Lattimore’s injury will be blamed, as they should be.  

This is vintage Carolina!  We actually have that rarest of situations where the one person that CANNOT lose is our starting quarterback.  And why not?  By all accounts this is a very nice kid who works hard and is from a good family.  He looks the part of the likeable, quiet hero in the white hat.    

His first home start (he technically started the neutral site ECU game) was against a very bad defense and he looked great.  His first road start was a logical step up in difficulty.  Miss. State was not an easy situation by any stretch but it wasn’t Baton Rouge either and he was able to maneuver through and get the win.  Now we go to Knoxville.  Again, not an easy setting at all but not exactly Tuscaloosa.  If we do win, and I am predicting we will, think about where the Gamecocks will be through 2/3 of the season:  7-1, near the Top 10, and 3-0 on the road in the SEC!  

And remember that while Shaw has been quietly going about his business, getting better and earning these wins, all of the recent drama and turmoil over Spurrier and Morris has been dominating the media.  Most folks think that the Morris incident was done on purpose to deflect away from the Garcia dismissal.  I think Spurrier was actually wanting to keep everyone from focusing on Connor.  Intentional or accidental, that is how things have played out in 2011. 

Here’s to hoping that it all works out for you Connor.  It’s your team now and you have nothing but good will and almost unanimous fan support behind you.  Even the most “negative” Carolina fans I tailgate with seem to be going out of their way to find positive things to say about you.  Enjoy it while you can.  As we have seen many times, it doesn’t last that way forever for a Gamecock quarterback.


WELCOME TO THE COCK-A-BOOSTER! Get ready for a wild ride!

There are many professional websites and blogs dedicated to USC sports.  What will make this one unique?  First, let me say that we are not trying to become another standard message board site with a national affiliation.  We won’t have any special inside information and we will NOT stick to a “company line” when talking about Carolina.

I am just a Gamecock fan with a unique perspective, and I tell it like it is.  I believe you will find it authentic and always interesting, even when you disagree with what is being said.  Outside of my regular column there will be some sarcastic humor and a lot of satire.  We will have some picking at my Clemson friends, but it will all be in fun and that’s what a rivalry is about. 

After all, this old Calhoun County Boy is as “Gamecock” as they come.  I was born and raised in St. Matthews, the home of Zam Fredrick and the Jeffery Brothers.  I have never lived anywhere but South Carolina, and was blessed with parents who are rabid Gamecocks themselves. 

My lineage is rooted in the Garnet and Black as well.  My Great Uncle was the late Tatum Gressette (also of St. Matthews), the Gamecock Football Captain in 1920 and 1921.  “Uncle” Tatum drop-kicked a field goal to beat Clemson 3-0 during his career and he became a Carolina legend in the process.  My late Grandfather, T. M. “Babe” Nelson, was the most loyal and passionate Gamecock fan I ever knew and I sat in many games with him in Section 104. 

So you can see it started early for me.  My Mom likes to tell folks that my first “memory” as a USC fan came when she was 7 months pregnant with me in March of 1971.  She and my Dad were at the Greensboro Coliseum that spring night when Kevin Joyce tapped the ball to Tom Owens and we won the ACC tournament.  So I was there at age -1. 
And I have “been there” ever since. 
I hope you like The Cock-A-Booster and feel free to let me know what you think.   

Go Gamecocks!