Green's Tuesday Throwback Report
November 23rd, 2010 By Patrick Green
This is a remarkable week in that it gives us a chance to offer thanks, as opposed to the general complaints that probably dictate the course of the daily landscape. Responsibly, Thanksgiving should be reserved for the things in life that grant us the most fulfillment, be it family, employment, freedom, or some other valuable belonging that which without we would be lost.
Behind the door of meaningful gratitude, some may gather on Thursday and slip in a few thanks for what might be considered trivial or less worthy. On this platform, respectively, those things are not without thought.
In that regard, one should not feel shame in offering thanks for a healthy quarterback, a stout front line, or a clever defensive coordinator, for that matter. In a season where almost every team has played at least 10 games, there is obviously a lot that a respective fan could be grateful for when it comes to his or her favorite club.
It’s relatively easy to imagine what a few of those musings might be.
Thanks for patience and perseverance
Virginia Tech proudly sits at this table.
The Hokies will wake up Thursday morning as the ACC Coastal Division champions, and the only undefeated team in conference play. They are 9-2 overall and finished the season an unscathed 7-0 against ACC competition.
Remarkably, Frank Beamer’s club is one of the hottest teams in the country, having ripped off nine straight victories to now sit as the 13th ranked squad in the nation. On Saturday, they will look to run that streak to 10 games when they face their in-state rival Virginia.
Regardless of what transpires against the Cavaliers, the Hokies will travel to Charlotte on December 4th to take on either North Carolina State or Florida State in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte.
That Virginia Tech is in the title game is hardly worth a yawn.
Since Championship play began in 2005, the Hokies have appeared in the title contest three times. They’ve won it twice, claiming back-to-back ACC Championships in 2007 and 2008, both times overcoming Boston College. In dominating fashion, this marks Virginia Tech’s fourth appearance in the title game in six years.
This is what was expected of Beamer’s team when it entered the season ranked 10th in the country.
And then the bottom fell out for the Hokies, fast and thunderous. First, they dropped their season opener to Boise State, 33-30, which didn’t necessarily send trimmers through Blacksburg. After all, the Broncos were ranked No.3 in the country at the time. The loss, though, was heightened in significance when Virginia Tech bounced, but not back, the following week, losing 21-16 to Football Championship Subdivision power James Madison.
Staring at an 0-2 record, with one loss coming to a team representing a lower tiered conference and the other a team playing up a weight class, Beamer and the Hokies were out of the top-25 and free to fade away into an otherwise mediocre season. Neither Beamer nor his team seemed to present any sound plan of action in interviews following the loss to James Madison.
There was no panic, no blaring frustration, no sense of urgency – there was nothing. Nothing but the next game on the schedule.
Initially, the Hokies handled East Carolina 49-27 and then evened their record with an impressive 19-0 shutout of Boston College. Beamer’s team could now make its season respectable, most indicated. Instead, Virginia Tech has gone on to make it exceptional. Perhaps Beamer knew it all along. Perhaps his team understood what needed to be done.
The Hokies have not only won nine straight games, they have done so in convincing fashion, taking each victory by an average of 20 points.
Several factors have played a part in Virginia Tech’s marvelous run. Darren Evans came in to spell an injured Ryan Williams at running back, leading the team in rushing with 678 yards and nine touchdowns. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor has equally been formidable on the ground, punching out 589 yards and four scores. The ground game, overall, has been a staple for the Hokies. David Wilson and Williams have more than 400 yards rushing, and each of the four leading backs average better than 4 yards per carry.
And though Virginia Tech’s foundation is laid through groundwork, Taylor has been effective through the air. He has thrown for 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns and completes 60 percent of his passes. More than anything else, Taylor is efficient. In 233 pass attempts this season, he has tossed only four interceptions. Virginia Tech, however, has not been as kind to opposing quarterbacks. The Hokies have 19 picks this year, eight of them coming by NCAA leading defensive back Jayron Hosley.
Now, instead of having to give thanks for the season nearing its end, Virginia Tech has to be grateful for having a chance to continue an amazing resurgence.
Thanks for home cooking
South Carolina will make its first appearance in the SEC title game in school history, when it faces Auburn on December 4th in Atlanta. Steve Spurrier will be credited, and rightfully so, for taking the Gamecocks beyond mediocrity.
The ‘old ball coach’ should be first rewarded for accomplishing something South Carolina hasn’t been renowned for, and that’s keeping the state’s best talent, in state. When you assess a Miami, Texas, or Southern California roster, the obvious truth that will jump off the page is that a majority of those teams’ talent pools come from their respective states.
The same is not the case for South Carolina.
The Gamecocks, for example, lost A.J. Green to Georgia. The Summerville, South Carolina, native is the latest Palmetto departure. Think Robert Geathers and Richard Seymour, also lost to Georgia, Corey Chavous to Vanderbilt, Peter Boulware to Florida State, and Courtney Brown to Penn State. All of these players advanced to the NFL, with Green certainly en route.
In South Carolina’s defense, it’s not reasonable to believe it could lure every native student-athlete to Columbia. However, wins and losses don’t accumulate through reasonability. And in order for Spurrier to take the Gamecocks to the next plateau, he needed and needs homegrown skill.
That said, he has it.
Running back Marcus Lattimore, out of Byrnes High School in Duncan, South Carolina, rushed for more than 6,000 yards and 100 touchdowns in his illustrious prep career, and had every major college coach in pursuit of his commitment. At the end, the Gamecocks won out, landing the nation’s top running back prospect.
South Carolina fans have been the real winner, watching Lattimore pile up 1,066 yards on 209 attempts, chalking up a school-record 17 touchdowns for the 8-3 Gamecocks. The true freshman also has 287 yards receiving with two scores. And in the SEC East deciding game against Florida two weeks ago, Lattimore rushed for a dominating 212 yards and three touchdowns in the 36-14 victory.
While Lattimore has been a shining star, he doesn’t grace the sky alone.
Receiver Alshon Jeffrey has caught 70 passes for 1,210 yards and has scored seven touchdowns this season for Spurrier. His antics have him standing as the SEC leading receiver and the fifth-leading wide out in the nation. And like Lattimore, Jeffrey starred as a youngster in the same state line as Williams Bryce Stadium.
The 6’4’’, 233-pound sophomore played his prep ball at Calhoun County High School in St. Matthews, South Carolina. He recorded more than 1,500 yards receiving his junior and senior seasons, and also starred as a kick returner and defensive back. When he stepped on USC’s campus last season, he didn’t lose a step.
Jeffrey has long since blown away the premise of a sophomore slump in Columbia, after he opened his Gamecock career in impressive fashion. He led the team with 46 catches last season and 763 yards, complimented by six touchdowns.
South Carolina’s roster still resembles a pot of gumbo, with a contingent of players hailing from Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina. It’s not a problem when the Gamecocks can swipe another state’s talent pool; the more noted concern is simply being better at keeping your talent pool home.
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