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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How about some hope heading into the South Carolina game?

Everybody and their mama, grandmama and financial adviser is picking State to lose against South Carolina Thursday night.

Russell Wilson is starting his first game at QB. The Pack's lost its top returning wide receiver for the year and its starting tailback is out with an ankle injury. South Carolina has one of the best defenses in the SEC.

But if you need a reason to believe that State can pull off the upset on the road, look no further. It can be done, and State did it 11 years ago.


In 1997 there was no way in hell State was going to go into the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY and beat the No. 13 Orangemen. Not coming off a 3-8 season, not on their home field, not with Donovan McNabb at quarterback.

But a State squad led by undersized-but-mobile quarterback (sound familiar?) Jamie Barnette and emerging superstar Torry Holt rallied from 14-0 and 17-10 deficits to tie the game in the final quarter. Luck was on their side, forcing and recovering a Syracuse fumble with the Orangemen on the two-yard line, trying to kill the clock and needing only a field goal to win it.

It also took some stones from coach Mike O'Cain. O'Cain took a ton of justified heat for the performance of his football team in the mid-to-late 90's, but he made the call in overtime to go for two, sensing Syracuse was off-balance on defense.

From the linked article, 99.9 The Fan host--and starting Wolfpack tight end--Mark Thomas had this to say after the game:
''I think we kind of surprised them. They have a young defense and when a defense sees an offense that has confidence, it kind of puts a question in their mind. When we got up to the line, it wasn't about what they were going to do. It was what we were going to do and what we were going to get done. They weren't really ready. We saw them jostling around, and we could see they were in a formation that we wanted.''

You probably remember the rest. Barnette hit Holt for the two-point conversion, the team streaked across the field in celebration, and Syracuse could only wonder what had just happened.

Is State as talented and experienced as that 1997 team? Probably not, at least not at the position of quarterback and wide receiver. But then again, South Carolina isn't exactly ranked 13th, either. They have all sorts of offensive questions as well. They also have all the pressure on them to win. At home, at night, in front of 80,000 fans, with a head coach that was supposed to have produced by now.

It's not supposed to go State's way tomorrow night. But it wasn't in 1997, either. In the first game of the year, anything can--and sometimes does--happen.

1 comment:

  1. i remember watching that game. i was giving a huge :porkchopstare when i saw them going for the two point conversion. huge stones to say the least.