Saturday, December 24, 2011

This is a bowl even Spurrier wants!

I don’t know Steve Spurrier personally.  I can’t confirm or disprove “conventional wisdom” about him.  One of the most “accepted” premises about the Head Ball Coach is that he doesn’t care about “minor” bowls.  Is it true?  Probably not, but the team’s bowl performances in recent years feed into that assumption. 
When we went to the Pizza Bowl in Birmingham a couple of years ago, I did what I could staying at the team’s hotel to watch how they were handling the trip.  I don’t know what preparation was going on behind closed doors but what I witnessed in front of me led me to believe that the players and coaches were treating it as a vacation.  We arrived at that pit of a stadium and it was freezing.  They actually ran out of pizza in the first quarter at the Papa John’s Bowl!  (My older brother called Domino’s to get a pizza delivered.  True Story but I digress.)  As you know, the team sleepwalked through a game they had no interest in and we were beaten up by a disciplined and well-prepared Connecticut squad.  That team wanted to be there and it showed. 
Contrast that year to Lou Holtz’s first Outback Bowl team.  We were the underdog on paper to Ohio State.  Our starting running back was not on the trip and we had to go with a backup named Ryan Brewer from Ohio.  We were told for a month how much better the Buckeyes were and that we would be outclassed.  Ohio State was in the middle of turmoil and frankly didn’t want to be there.  A hungry and focused bunch of Gamecocks with a chip on their shoulders went out and danced all over the mighty Bucks 24-7.  Brewer scored three times on his home-state team and was carried off the field.  We wanted that bowl and it showed. 
Granted, effort doesn’t always decide bowl games.  We’ve lost a bowl I thought we played hard in-  the Gator Bowl in 1984.  We won a bowl we didn’t care about as well- the Liberty Bowl over Houston.  Of course the best bowls involve two good teams that want to be there.  I don’t know what Nebraska’s approach to the bowl will be but you get the sense that this one means something to Spurrier because of history.  Even he admits that history motivates him and that is a good sign for the Gamecocks.  We have never won 11 games in a season.  The Coach says that he wants the players to receive rings if they win to mark the achievement. 
In a perfect world the team would approach every game and every bowl with the exact same energy level and focus but that’s not reality.  You get the feeling this year is going to be one to remember for the Garnet and Black.  Assuming Nebraska feels that way, this is going to be a great bowl game to watch.  Merry Christmas!   

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