VIEW FROM THE BOOTH - DAVID CRANE
September 25, 2008
The sun seems to shine a little brighter, the food tastes a little better, and things are generally better following a win. I hope you enjoyed last Saturday and the days following the Blazers first win of the season. The 45-10 victory over Alabama State should do a lot for everyone in Green and Gold. The fans got to celebrate and enjoy a Saturday night for a change. I'm sure the coaches and players did, too, but for them, there has to be a sense of relief and gratification. They've worked mighty hard leading up to the season and through the first month. It's good they now have something positive and concrete to show for it.
The key is to build on that success. Nothing would suit me better than a two-game winning streak at the expense of the Ol' Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier. This Saturday's visit to Columbia will be the second trip this season into SEC territory. The first one didn't turn out as well as we would've liked in Knoxville, but it should serve as a nice "warm up" for this weekend's showdown with the Gamecocks. The Vols were big, strong and physical on both sides of the ball. South Carolina will be much the same, perhaps with an even better defense. The "other" USC leads the nation in pass defense under first-year coordinator, Ellis Johnson, a man Neil Callaway is quite familiar with after working together for several years. The 'Cocks return 10 of 11 starters on that side of the ball, and they've already pitched a shutout this season. Granted, it was against an ACC team, but, hey, a shutout is a shutout.
The good news is the UAB offense should have some confidence heading in. The Blazers ran and passed in almost perfect harmony last Saturday at Legion Field. Joe Webb continues to put on a show, and the Blazers are the #1 rushing team in all of Conference USA. Not a bad improvement from a year ago when the Green and Gold ranked 12th in the league in that department. The sledding may be a little tougher in Columbia this Saturday, and despite the Vols held UAB to just three points, I really do think the Blazers will find the end zone at Williams-Brice Stadium.
As for the "Cock and Fire" offense, well, Steve Spurrier's bunch hasn't exactly been giving the scoreboard a workout like so many of his Florida teams did. There's been the usual unrest at the quarterback position, turnovers have plagued the Gamecocks, and, as an added bonus, their top rusher, Mike Davis, is sitting out a one-game suspension...so are two other starters...for a pre-season violation of team rules. Seems as if they picked this game to sit out. Now, they played last week against Wofford, but they've decided to take it easy this Saturday with the Blazers in town...interesting. Pick your own witty description..."missing some bullets"..."cock and misfire"..."cock and shoot yourself in the foot"...let's just hope the Carolina offense sputters for one more week. The UAB defense has forced five turnovers in the last two games, and nothing can tick off a home crowd quicker than their offense giving the ball away.
Speaking of that crowd, if you've never been to Williams-Brice Stadium for a game, it should be on your list. While the history isn't necessarily on par with a Notre Dame, Michigan, Tennessee, etc., the Carolina fans are some of the most passionate and supportive you'll come across. The entrance to "2001" is pretty cool, especially at night.
The Gamecocks are trying to get it going, and the Blazers want to keep it going after the win last Saturday. It's the second meeting between these two programs. Carolina won the first back in 2003 in Columbia, when Lou Holtz was still coaching, as opposed to delivering pep talks filled with magic tricks or handing out advice in the "doctor's office" on ESPN. Kick time is 6 PM central, and it will be televised on a Pay-Per-View basis. For those of you on the ESPN GamePlan, you'll be able to watch the Green and Gold square off against the Garnet and Black. Our pre-game on the Blazers ISP Sports Network will begin at 4:30 PM from Williams-Brice Stadium.
Don't forget the "Battle for the Bones" next Thursday night. Memphis comes to Legion Field to battle for the 96-pound bronze rack of ribs. If you want to enter the barbecue competition, sign up online at www.battleforthebones.com by Monday, September 29th.
A few other notes...
Congrats to Zack Sucher. He tied for medalist honors earlier this week at the Shoal Creek Intercollegiate. The senior shot two-under-par for the event and helped the Blazers finish third. Conference USA also honored him as the league's "Men's Golfer of the Week" for the fifth time in his UAB career.
From the world of Blazers All-Access (weekly coach's call-in show), we apologize to anyone who tried to listen online Wednesday night. Our friends at WJOX 94.5 FM had some streaming issues that hit early in the evening. We all hope that problem will be corrected by next Wednesday so the fans that can't make it to Baumhower's Wings Restaurant at Patton Creek can tune in online. We'd love to have you join us for the show live and in person. We're there each Wednesday from 7-8 PM, and we'll have plenty of giveaways for those asking questions in the crowd.
Well, that's about it for this week. It's just about time to pack up and make the trip to Palmetto State. I hope to see you in Columbia as UAB tries to make it back-to-back wins.
Enjoy your weekend, and GO BLAZERS!!!