Like a seasoned vet, I made it into my seat in the main room at the Hyatt Regency three minutes before Steve Spurrier took the stage. Despite the early call time, the room was packed because no one does Media Days like the Ole Ball Coach. In his 23rd year–a Media Days record–Spurrier didn’t disappoint, teasing and toying with reporters, beating to them to the punch by being the first to bring up retirement.
“A lot of familiar faces out there after a lot of years coming to this event. I figured a bunch of you guys would have retired by now,” Spurrier quipped to the room of reporters, who lapped the joke up like thirsty, excited puppies.
“That retirement thing, I don’t think I’d be very good at it,” Spurrier said. “I can go to the beach and stay four or five days, and, hey, let’s get on out of here. We’ve been here long enough.”
After day four or five on the beach, the beer bloat and sunburn is enough to send even the strongest of us home, Steve.
He came out firing
Before Spurrier even took the stage, he was firing shots at other teams, specifically Arkansas and Tennessee, both of which had 7-6 records like the Gamecocks. Try as he might, Spurrier’s remarks didn’t exactly come off as humble.
“There are people in Knoxville and Fayetteville still doing cartwheels over going 7-6,” Spurrier joked before he came in. It didn’t take too long for him to come back to that at the podium. “We were 7-6, same as Tennessee and the same as Arkansas, and I think they’re sort of celebrating big seasons last year. So we were celebrating also. We were doing some cartwheels and high fiving after that Independence Bowl game.”
(Insert Spurrier snark)
“Some losses were tougher than others” **cough, cough, KENTUCKY**
Spurrier was candid about his team’s struggles, accepting blame for the Gamecocks’ skid midseason, which included a loss to Kentucky, never an easy pill for him to swallow.
“I don’t know how close I came to walking away, but when you lose four out of five, and three of them we had a two touchdown lead with four minutes to play, 13 points against Missouri with about 4:30 or 5:00; and Kentucky and Tennessee, 14-point leads,” Spurrier said. “Those were some tough losses.”
In fact, the season got so bad that Spurrier admitted he celebrated the Independence Bowl win like it was a BCS bowl game.
“When you go into a game 6-6, there’s a lot on it. Just to change the subject a little bit, I’ve learned a lot better appreciation for all the Bowl games. I really have. Everybody can’t play in the SEC Championship game.”
Get ready for the American Pharoah/Pharoh Cooper jokes
South Carolina’s star wide receiver is Pharoh Cooper, who had 69 catches for 1,136 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. Spurrier joked that the team calls him “South Carolina Pharoh” after American Pharoah because of his speed, and I don’t think I’ve felt more old than when Pharoh said he follows the other Pharoah on Twitter. “My [Twitter] notifications were going crazy after he won the race,” Cooper said.
Get ready to hear the Pharoh/American Pharoah joke all. season. long.
Randall Cobb is now a role model
Cooper plays the slot, and when asked which NFL player he models his game after, the first name he mentioned was Randall Cobb. “I’ve followed him for a while,” Cooper said, also mentioning Golden Tate and Percy Harvin.
You guys know I’m a fan, but hearing one of the SEC’s best wide receivers mention Cobb as a role model shows that he’s the most influential UK NFL player since Tim Couch. Maybe even more so now.
Pharoh says the loss to UK was the low point of the season
The win over South Carolina was the high point of last season for Kentucky, and, in turn, Cooper admitted it was the low point of the Gamecocks’ season.
“Besides the Texas A&M game, coming off that first loss then we won the next two in a row, beat Georgia, that was kind of a high point, beat Vanderbilt then lost to Kentucky in game we know we should have won,” Cooper said. “We knew we had to get straightened up and play how we’re supposed to play.”
What was the locker room like afterwards?
“It was quiet. I mean, we couldn’t do anything about it. We were up in that game, and they ran the same play the whole game and we just couldn’t stop it,” Cooper said of JoJo Kemp’s heroics. “It was frustrating and some people were yelling at each other, that’s part of football. As a team, it was quiet, we couldn’t say anything, we lost the game.”
Hearing how JoJo and the Cats silenced Spurrier and the Gamecocks has me in the mood for some highlights.
Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M are next…