Archive for the 'South Carolina' Category

Re-living the Tennessee Volunteers 2005 football season: Part 8, South Carolina Gamecocks

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

Pre-game

By late October, the Tennessee Volunteers had lost to its three biggest rivals. Special teams goofs had cost the team the Florida game. The Georgia loss was directly attributable to a punt coverage breakdown and a slew of penalties resulting in awful field position for most of the game. Against Alabama, the opportunity cost of two fumbles inside the ten and a muffed punt at midfield combined to result in yet another heartbreaking loss.

The Volunteer Nation began its root cause analysis, and everybody had their opinions. Doesn’t winning necessarily follow excellent recruiting classes? Was it just fluke after fluke after fluke? Was it just because four out of six opponents were ranked in the top 5 at the time we played them? Was it the Spotlight Effect? Was it the season-ending injury to Jason Allen?

And what would happen now that Gerald Riggs was out for the season? Was Arian Foster really in the same league as USC’s Reggie Bush?

One thing we did know for sure: when Steve Spurrier returned to Neyland Stadium for the Volunteers’ next game, he’d be bringing his bag of tricks. While the Volunteer offense seemed unlikely to encounter the suspicious powdery substance, the defense might be able to induce Darth Visor to grimaces like never before because this time his Storm Troopers were armored in garnet and black instead of blue and orange.

The game

Rick Clausen’s excellent performance in the LSU game was growing smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror, and on this day it would melt completely into the horizon. Clausen got the start, but threw an interception on his first pass of the second offensive series. The Gamecocks capitalized on the mistake with a touchdown three plays later.

Ainge then came in and drove the team 72 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown. On the next offensive possession, a possible touchdown pass to Jayson Swain was ruled out of bounds, but the team did drive 32 yards for a field goal. Arian Foster was running exceptionally well, and the offense appeared to have found its rhythm with Ainge.

Like most good news this season, it was short-lived.

The offense failed to capitalize on two South Carolina fumbles in the first half. When the Gamecocks fumbled on their own 30 yard line, the Vols lost a yard on three plays and then missed a field goal. When SC later fumbled on their own 18, the Tennessee offense drove 18 yards only to fumble inside the one yard line.

Look at the mess on that drive chart on both sides of the ball. Interception. Fumble. Field goal missed. Field goal missed. Safety. Fumble. Fumble. Interception.

The Vols were ahead at the half, both in points and in lost opportunities.

Britton Colquitt put together a pretty nice game with six punts for 226 yards. Three of his punts were inside the five yard line and another was inside the 20. You could convince yourself that Arian Foster also had a good game if you were able to repress the memory of his fumble within a blade of fescue of the goal line. He averaged almost six yards on 25 carries for a total of 150 yards.

In the end, though, Spurrier had worked his mojo against the Vols yet again and strolled of Rocky Top with a 16-15 victory.

Post game

Might Tennessee, who began the season with national championship aspirations, had just lost to the perennial 4th-in-the-SEC-East South Carolina Gamecocks. They had fallen to 3-4 overall and 2-4 in the SEC. They were 0-3 in the SEC East, which they had been pre-season favorites to win.

The horror of the loss was captured best by GoVolsXtra’s John Adams:

You can’t comprehend the magnitude of the loss unless you know a little something about the winners.

South Carolina lost by 23 points to Alabama and by 41 to Auburn. It ranks 111th in the country in rushing and 85th in rushing defense.

There’s more.

The Gamecocks start two walk-ons on offense. They lost arguably their best player, wide receiver/quarterback/running back Syvelle Newton, to a season-ending injury last week.

Their injury situation only got worse against the Vols. They lost two more wide receivers — Carlos Thomas and Noah Whiteside — to game-ending injuries in the first half.

With all that stacked against them, the Gamecocks would have to play a mistake-free game to have a chance, right?

Not hardly. They lost two fumbles and threw an interception in the first half. They were penalized 10 times.

And still, UT had lost.

Things had gone from downright Rosy to downright ugly on Rocky Top. Players were beginning to openly fuss at each other on the field. Both quarterbacks were dazed, glassy-eyed, and exasperated. Someone painted “Fire Randy Sanders, please!” on the Rock on the UT campus, echoing the chant by a pocket of fans toward the end of the game. Local radio reported that some fans were throwing objects at the players as they left the field.

Having had an emotional meeting with his family immediately following the game (audio link), Sanders fell on his sword the following Tuesday. He would serve out the rest of the season, but would give up the offensive coordinator role and play calling duties. Players responded to the news with shock and hostility, some engaging in a full-on rant with media microphones recording it all. Many media guys and bloggers could relate, some saying they had the wrong guy or that it was a good start.

Not pretty. Not pretty at all.

And it wasn’t over yet.

Two Minute Drill: Mini-previews, fantasy match-ups, and Hooker’s multiple personality disorder

Monday, June 12th, 2006

GoVolsXtra’s Dave Hooker displays his split personality and tells us both why the Tennessee Volunteer football team will right the ship in 2006 and why they won’t. And speaking of Dave, he returns to radio, filling the 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon slot on The Sports Animal. Good news, as he brings a bit more fun to the Knoxville airwaves.

John Pennington has some fun of his own and picks the out of conference match-ups he’d most like to see. I’m with John on the Ohio State home-and-home to share our “running through the T” one season and witness their “dotting of the i” the next. UT’s don’t-shoot-me-I’m-not-a-deer orange versus the other UT’s burnt orange would also be . . . orangey.

The season previews are coming in multiples now. College Football News publishes its preview of the Florida Gators, and Inside Tennessee’s Randy Moore draws on the past to predict the future, writing that Spurrier’s Gamecocks could very well hit the hat trick it barely missed last year and beat Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. Moore also points out that when UT and California meet on September 2, UT will run basically the same offense it failed with last year, while California will run a different offense it won with last year. One of us is making a mistake. Maybe both.

CFN’s top 75 college football games for next year

Saturday, March 11th, 2006

College Football News has selected the 75 most anticipated college football games for next year. Tennessee has six of the 75:

  • 45. Tennessee at Alabama, Oct. 21
  • 40. Tennessee at South Carolina, Nov. 28
  • 30. California at Tennessee, Sept. 2
  • 28. LSU at Tennessee, Nov. 4
  • 22. Tennessee at Georgia, Oct. 7
  • 10. Florida at Tennessee, Sept. 16

Volunteers hope to reverse tournament fortunes beginning today

Friday, March 10th, 2006

The Tennessee Volunteer basketball team begins tournament play today, taking on South Carolina in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals at 1:00 EST.

The Vols have beaten South Carolina twice this season, but the Gamecocks should not be underestimated. They’ve beaten Florida twice, Kentucky once at Rupp Arena, and played LSU tough. Oh, and they led Tennessee by 12 at halftime in one of Tennessee’s previous wins.

All the talk is about vanquishing the Vols’ tournament curse. It seems like the team has not won a post-season game in . . . well, forever. Since the divisional split in 1992, they have never reached the SEC Tournament semi-finals. They rank last in the league in wins during that time, and they’ve lost four of their last six games. The games haven’t even been close. Even when they enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed in the East (1999 and 2000), they’ve been upset in their first game.

So will this year be any different?

Here, the talk’s all about how new head coach Bruce Pearl’s style is just about custom-made for tournament play. It’s odd, so the short preparation times for opponents work in favor of the style, and it’s exhausting, so the team in better shape will have even more of an advantage than usual, primarily because they’re tired.

Of course, the exhausting style of play could cut against Pearl’s team this year because he’s trying to do it with only 7 or 8 players instead of his customary deep bench.

We’ll see. It’s Tournament Time in Tennessee.

This is why they made TiVo.

Volunteer basketball fans dreaming of Big Dance

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

After its 81-65 win Saturday night against South Carolina at Thompson-Boling Arena, the Tennessee Volunteer basketball team now has the same number of wins as last year’s basketball team had all season. Going into the season, no one was sure whether the team would make it to the NIT, much less the NCAA Tournament.

Basketball coach Bruce Pearl, who gets all of the credit for the great surprise this season, has yet to admit that the Vols are headed to the Big Dance, but that’s not stopping the fans. So much for wondering whether they’ll get invited, now it’s about where they’re re going to be seeded.

Anyway, about the game:

  • The crowd at Thompson-Boling topped 20,000 for the third consecutive game, something that’s not happened since 1988. Tennessee apparently ranks 10th in the nation in home attendance with an average of 16,863 per game. They’re second to Kentucky in the SEC. The whole attendance thing is really resonating with recruits.
  • Senior Andre Patterson got his third consecutive double-double (13 points and 12 rebounds).
  • The Vols struggled — at halftime, the Vols had turned the ball over nine times and had hit just 6 of 23 3-point attempts — but won 81-65.
  • Credit team chemistry for the victory despite the adversity. Credit Coach Pearl for the chemistry. See, e.g., the Andre Patterson/Stanley Asumnu swap. Last Wednesday, Pearl removed Asumnu from the starting lineup and inserted Patterson. Both Patterson and Asunmu have responded positively. Asumnu had 10 points, four rebounds, and zero turnovers against South Carolina after a mini-slump prior to losing his starting job.
  • Tennessee out-rebounded South Carolina 43-30.
  • The Vols are first in the SEC East. Over Florida. Over Kentucky. Over the rainbow.

Tennessee Volunteer football team No. 9 in CFN’s pre-preseason poll

Friday, January 27th, 2006

College Football News has the Tennessee Volunteers ranked No. 9 in its Pre-preseason poll. Here’s how the Vols’ 2006 opponents stack up in the same poll:

  • California — No. 12
  • Air Force — No. 89
  • Florida — No. 2
  • Marshall — No. 88
  • Memphis — No. 73
  • Georgia — No. 21
  • Alabama — No. 20
  • South Carolina — No. 35
  • LSU — No. 4
  • Arkansas — No. 34
  • Vanderbilt — No. 72
  • Kentucky — No. 78

Bruce Pearl Fever Approaching Epidemic Status on Rocky Top

Friday, January 13th, 2006

John Pennington says that there’s a spreading epidemic of Bruce Pearl Fever on Rocky Top:

Bruce Pearl Fever has not only hit Thompson-Boling Arena (20,000 in attendance for the Georgia game), but it’s also hit the Knoxville Tip-Off Club.This week Calhoun’s was packed to standing room only capacity as John Ward and Bruce Pearl took turns at the podium. . . .

Pearl thanked the crowd for their support and told them that they would be needed when the bubble burst as well.

That’s all well and good, right? It’s a booster club, of course it was packed. Except for one thing:

The Tip-Off Club didn’t even convene last year due to fan apathy. Now there are more folks attending the basketball meetings than have attended the football meetings of the Quarterback Club (same club, name changes with the season).

* * * *

ESPN.com had the Vols listed as an 8 seed in their mock NCAA Tourney this week. And that was before the Georgia win. This team has wins (on the road) over Texas and South Carolina. They’ve also beaten a number of mid-majors, and a few of those schools will probably be on the bubble when their conference tournaments conclude. Also, this team is a “story.” Pearl is garnering “Coach of the Year” talk from the national media. And the NCAA selection committee loves a good story.

I’m officially on the bandwagon. I love Coach Pearl both thanking the fans for their support and asking them to stick around “when the bubble bursts.” It’s all about maintaining realistic expectations. And speaking of expectations, Pennington has some thoughts on that, as well:

Last Summer, UT’s football team was picked to win the SEC (by the SEC media and coaches). They were picked #3 in the nation by the media and coaches’ polls. Then they stink it up, falling victim to “the Perfect Storm,” if you will. Last Fall, UT’s basketball team was picked for the tail end of it’s own division by the media and coaches. Top 25 lists? Uh, no. If they had a Top 150 poll, then UT might have been on the “others receiving votes” list. But now Bruce Pearl has taken a team with… well, you know the list of things this team has to overcome… and gotten them to 11-1, 2-0 in the SEC with road wins at Texas and South Carolina. So much for predictions.

Yeah. Pennington seems to be saying that pre-season expectations aren’t worth anything. I think there’s an inverse correlation between expectations and performance, at least with the Tennessee Volunteers.

Tennessee Volunteer Basketball Team Opens SEC Play with a Win over South Carolina

Monday, January 9th, 2006

The Tennessee Volunteer basketball team followed up a terrible 23-point first half with an almost perfect second half to beat South Carolina 76-69 on Sunday.

The Vols hit 10 of 13 three-pointers and had only one turnover in the second half, primarily due to Chris Lofton, who went 6 of 7 on threes and finished with 18 points.
Wonder of wonders,  the Vols are 1-0 in the SEC and 10-1 overall.

MGoBlog Blog Poll

Monday, December 5th, 2005

1. Texas: UT gets nod over USC only because of USC’s would-be loss to Notre Dame
2. USC: Basically neck and neck with the Longhorns
3. Notre Dame: Two bad calls on final two plays cost them victory over USC
4. Georgia: SEC champ
5. LSU: SEC runner-up
6. Florida: Lost three games, but beat both SEC champ and ACC champ
7. Penn State: Only one loss, but docked for not having to play a championship game
8. Ohio State: Only losses to Texas and Penn State
9. Florida State: Yeah, four losses, but still champ of tough ACC conference
10. Virginia Tech: ACC runner-up
11. Georgia Tech: Four losses, but beat both Auburn and Miami
12. Auburn: Stumbled out of the gate and lost to SEC runner-up LSU, but beat SEC champ Georgia
13. Miami: Throttled ACC runner-up Virginia Tech
14. Alabama: Only losses to SEC runner-up LSU and number 12 Auburn
15. Oregon: Only one loss, but docked for relatively weak conference
16. West Virginia: Received a BCS berth while never cracking the top ten
17. Michigan: Beat Big 10 champ Penn State, but lost four games
18. UCLA
19. Clemson: Beat ACC champ FSU, but who didn’t?
20. South Carolina: Wins over Florida and Tennessee not as impressive in hindsight
21. TCU
22. Northwestern
23. Iowa
24. Iowa State
25. Louisville

Tennessee Volunteer Blogger John Pennington is Hearing Voices

Monday, December 5th, 2005

John Pennington plays the part of both optimist and pessimist and breaks down the expectations for the Tennessee Volunteers next season:

The Defensive

Optimist: There’s no need to even break this down by individual groups. Suffice to say, the defense will be just as good next year, if not better. “In Chief We Trust.” When was the last time John Chavis didn’t have a top notch defense on the field?

And before you point out all the guys who have graduated, just remember that UT played A LOT of guys on defense this year. That’s experience. And experience talent Chief = many wins.

Pessimist: Forgive me, but I’ll say it anyway. Six of the front 7 will definitely be gone, and it could be all 7 if Justin Harrell decides to go pro early. That dominating front 7 helped to hide some holes in the secondary this year, especially once Jason Allen went down (add him to the list of guys who won’t be back).

Chavis is good, very good, but he’s not perfect. In 2004, his D gave up 28 to Florida, 29 to South Carolina, and then Kentucky and Vandy scored in the 30s. He’s human. And “human” – a dominating front 7 – depth (who knows if next year’s team will have the quality depth on D that this year’s squad had) = a drop-off on defense.

Pennington’s internal debate extends also to the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive line, and intangibles.