Well friends, we've reached the end of our third season of "Inside The Chart," our weekly broadcast blog on Gamecocks Online. Preparation is at the heart of what we do, and whether a game turns into a blowout or an instant classic, we want to make every broadcast informative, entertaining, and memorable.
That often leads me on some strange twists and turns through the Internet wormhole. Or, when I'm looking at stats, I'll discover a "fish," some hidden number that offers a clue to the game. Our access to the players and coaches also gives us a cache of memorable quotes.
With another season behind us, it's time to look back at the best of the best, the strangest of the strange, and the most random of the random. Enjoy our first annual "Year In Charts" from "Inside The Chart":
The Frank Martin Section
After a year of working with him on "Carolina Calls" and post-game radio interviews, one thing became clear: Frank Martin has led one heck of a life. Some of those stories you can find with a quick Google search. Others we discovered for the first time. Some of the more memorable stories from a truly captivating coach:
* Martin had an uncredited role in the football movie "Any Given Sunday" starring Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx. Martin played the Miami Sharks' offensive line coach during football scenes filmed in Homestead, Fla.
* Martin said he and his friends used to sneak in to the Orange Bowl every New Year's Day. Martin said they used the same time-honored tactic: find the most elderly ticket taker, wait until the line got crowded, and hurdle the turnstile unnoticed. Unfortunately, one of the Orange Bowls Martin attended was Clemson's national championship-clinching victory over Nebraska in 1982.
* When they were assistant coaches at Miami Senior High School in Miami, Fla., Martin and Alabama head coach Anthony Grant attended a taping of "Sabado Gigante," the popular variety show on Spanish-language television station Univision. Grant was chosen from the studio audience, and, to Martin's astonishment, won a car. When the emcee, Don Francisco, began peppering him with questions on stage, Grant - whose knowledge of the Spanish language was minimal - could only utter the phrase "Que fantastico!" The story had been kept a secret until Martin spilled the beans on "Carolina Calls."
When asked about it by my colleague, "Voice of the Crimson Tide" Chris Stewart, Grant rolled his head to the sky, laughed, and said, "Who told you?"
* Like Martin, Ole Miss assistant coach Sergio Rouco is a Miami native. Their connection, though, goes well beyond a shared hometown: Rouco coached Martin as a 12 year-old in the San Juan Bosco church league in Little Havana. Martin's first coaching gig was as a volunteer JV assistant at Miami Senior, when Rouco was the head coach. Rouco also led the Marinos de Anzoategui to a Venezuelan league title in 2010, where his assistant coach was Luis Carrera, the father of freshman Michael Carrera.
* Martin has kept the same in-season haircut superstition for the past 20 years. He says he gets a trim after his team finishes semester exams, and again after the last regular-season game.
* For the last several years, Texas A&M's "Reed Rowdies" have waved a giant, oversized head of Martin to distract shooters. After Kansas State's last game there in 2012, several A&M students autographed the head and presented it to Martin. He still has it in his son's room. The Reed Rowdies came prepared with a new edition this year.
Picture taken before South Carolina's game at Texas A&M. The Aggies' student section, the "Reed Rowdies," rekindled their tradition of waving an oversized head of Frank Martin during free throws.
The "Told You So" Section
We have a rampant curiosity - okay, obsession - for numbers and patterns. Our proudest moments of tea leaf-reading this year:
* Entering the final weekend of the regular season, Georgia's Aaron Murray and Clemson's Tajh Boyd ranked #1 and #2 in the nation in quarterback efficiency. Their combined numbers against Carolina: 40% completion percentage, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd getting pulled down by defensive end Aldrick Fordham.
* Heading into its game against Tennessee, South Carolina had the worst fumble recovery percentage of any team in the nation with 10 or more forced fumbles (3 of 14, 21.4%). A Jadeveon Clowney strip-sack, followed by a Shaq Wilson fumble recovery, helped seal the Gamecocks' 38-35 win.
* At 6'5," freshman Michael Carrera was the shortest player in the nation to rank in the top 100 in Offensive Rebounding Percentage (13th) and Defensive Rebounding Percentage (21st).
* Earlier in the week, we pointed out that Clemson ranked 101st in the nation in total defense versus FBS winning teams. That put the Tigers alongside defenses like Arkansas (100), East Carolina (102), and Tennessee (104) - all of whom Carolina shredded. True to form, the Gamecocks rolled up 444 yards of offense behind backup quarterback Dylan Thompson in a 27-17 win.
Total Defense vs. FBS Opponents with Winning Records - Entering Week 13
102. East Carolina
103. Wake Forest
* The South Carolina-Auburn game featured a staggering 27 lead changes, the most in a Division I game this year. Notre Dame and Louisville traded leads 26 times in their February 9 duel in South Bend, but that game lasted five overtimes.
* South Carolina completed as many pass plays of 50+ yards in the first 20 minutes of the Outback Bowl (2) as Michigan had allowed all season.
The Cornbread Walker Siblings, Relatives, and Nicknames Division:
When preparing for a game, I always try to research the opposing players to find some interesting stories. I've been awed and inspired by some of the tales I've found.
For some reason, though, this year's teams blessed us with an incredible array of odd names. The Gamecocks weren't immune, either. This year's memorable moments in nomenclature (named in honor of Kentucky Wesleyan guard Cornbread Walker):
* Missouri wide receiver Bud Sasser has two sisters named Brandy and Tequila.
* It figures that Kentucky forward Nerlens Noel, the SEC's leading freshman rebounder, has an older brother named Rodman.
* Mississippi State freshman guard Craig Sword has a nickname better suited to playing for South Carolina, not against them: "Chicken."
* Linebacker Shaq Wilson rarely gets called Shaq back home. Among family and friends in Jacksonville, Fla., he's universally known as "Diesel," a play on his Dad's name, Demesio.
* Missouri football has not one, but two freshmen named Mitch Hall.
* A.J. Cann revealed to us that his family nickname growing up was "Ganky." Its origins remain unclear, but Cann says it was bestowed upon him by his grandmother.
* One of the most distinctive names belonged to St. John's guard Sir'Dominic Pointer. Even more amazingly, Pointer's birth name was Dominique. He legally changed it to Sir'Dominic.
The Best In Random Information
* Gamecock wide receiver Damiere Byrd eats a pack of gummy bears before every game.
* Bruce Ellington popped a tendon in his pinky finger in high school, but not on the football field. He did it while jumping over a porch, trying to run away from a loose pit bull. The finger still gives him occasional soreness after football games, like when he clutched an ice pack after his 5-catch, 104-yard performance against Arkansas.
* Linebacker Quin Smith says he plays hard thanks to a traumatic incident he had as an eight year-old. Smith needed 68 stitches (at least - his Dad stopped counting past then) on his arms when he ran through a glass door at the home of a friend. One piece of glass came within an inch of severing his main artery.
* Assistant coach Matt Figger lived in an empty room in a warehouse in his first year as an assistant at Vincennes University, a junior college in Vincennes, Ind. It was one of many Spartan conditions to which Figger subjected himself as he chased - and realized - his dream of becoming a major-college basketball coach.
* In a nod to casual wear, St. John's Steve Lavin and his staff wear sneakers on game day. Apparently, the fashion statement even extends to the priests.
Picture taken at. John's, even the priests get stomping in their Air Force Ones.
The Year In Quotes:
Our best collection of quotes from "Inside The Charts" and pre-game interviews:
* "They want to go like Ricky Bobby. They want to go fast."
-Assistant coach Matt Figger, on Arkansas' tempo.
* "I was actually about seven years old. The guy that I hit was one of my good friends. I felt good doing it. It was just a feeling I couldn't explain."
-Safety D.J. Swearinger, discussing when his love for hard hitting began. For the record, Swearinger and his tackling guinea pig remain friends.
* "A guy stopped me in a truck and asked, 'Hey, are you back?' I was like, 'Yeah, I'm good to go.'.... He then went on to say, 'How's your shoulder feel? I said fine, though I remember thinking I haven't had a hurt shoulder. Then he said, 'Why didn't you bring Marcus Lattimore and Dylan Thompson with you?' That's when I knew."
-Gamecock baseball player Adam Matthews, on his resemblance - to some, at least - to Gamecock quarterback Connor Shaw. Matthews has put up with numerous cases of mistaken identity since Shaw rose to stardom at South Carolina.
* "I don't think I've even hit him in practice."
-Connor Shaw, on his first career completion to fullback Qua Gilchrist in the Gamecocks' win over Missouri
* "I tried to jump in that dumpster to burn myself along with the film, but I didn't fit in there."
-Frank Martin, when asked if Carolina's 75-36 loss to Florida qualified as a "burn the tape" game.
* "If the Michigan secondary tackled as well as that chair, South Carolina wouldn't have won the Outback Bowl."
-Us on-air, after Bruce Ellington's leg got caught in a courtside folding chair during Carolina's game at Mississippi State January 9. Play had to be stopped so Ellington could extricate himself.
And Finally... Thanks again for supporting our radio network and everything we do. This blog spanned about 120 pages and too many sleepless nights, but I enjoyed every minute of it. We can't wait to go "Inside The Chart" with you again next year. -AD--