Pigskin Pursuit

An eight year odyssey across the backroads of America during the ultimate College Football roadtrip.

Tag: South Carolina vs Alabama 2010

South Carolina: Gamecocks vs. Crimson Tide!

Some times things just have a way of working out….

 

And turning into something amazing.

 

 

I had to cancel my Notre Dame trip originally planned for last weekend because flight costs had risen egregiously high, and I couldn’t justify the spend for a trip to South Bend. As luck would have it, a work trip brought me to Charlotte, North Carolina on Friday and I ended up falling into an offer for tickets to the South Carolina vs. Alabama game. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, especially when your tickets end up being in the second row on the 40 yard line (not so subtle brag). Needless to say, watching the #18 Gamecocks hosting the #1 Crimson Tide was an opportunity not to be missed, and I gladly made the quick ninety mile jaunt down to Columbia on Saturday morning.

 

 

After finishing up tailgating (posted below), I hustled into Williams Brice stadium a bit early. Given that this was shaping up to be an epic tilt inside the “Cockpit” it was clearly going to be a mob scene getting in and I didn’t want to miss a minute of their fabled “2001 Space Odyssey” entrance. Considered one of the most unique entrances in all of college football, “Cocky” the mascot and the rest of the Gamecocks take the field to the tune of Stanley Kubricks famous score from “2001 Space Odyssey” accompanied by the thunderous roar of over 82,000 fans. It was a unique, energizing, intimidating and deafening experience, all the things a great entrance should be.


As for the game itself, unless you spent last weekend under a rock, you already know that I witnessed one of the most spectacular upsets all season, and certainly the biggest victory in Gamecock history. I guess I know how to pick em’. To put it in perspective, South Carolina had never upset a #1 ranked team, and had only beaten a top five team twice before in history. Alabama had looked nearly invincible for the last two years, yet the Gamecocks absolutely dominated them on both sides of the ball, strutting away with a convincing 35-21 victory.

Remarkable about the win, however, was the way the Gamecocks won. They completely shut down the Alabama rushing duo of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. They also pierced the massive Alabama offensive line, which, from my perspective, looked like a herd of mastodons on the field. On offense, they took it right up the gut on the Crimson Tide, amassing 110 yards rushing on the day behind phenom freshman running back Marcus Lattimore (I guess he gets a “seat at the table” for that performance – kudos if you get that reference). One such rushing series included a spirit crushing eight minute touchdown drive to grind out the third quarter. I guess the Ol’ Ball Coach still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

The in stadium atmosphere on the day was expectedly spectacular. This is SEC football after all, and yes, it is different. As you can imagine, fans were in a frenzy during the beginning of the game, but the energy level was sustained for nearly the entire contest given how close it was. At one point, the concrete floor was discernibly vibrating beneath me and aluminum benches sure make for incredible noise makers. This was a standing only affair, and the entire stadium only reposed for the half time show.

 

 

In fact, on the way out of the stadium, fans were singing and cheering inside the tunnel, still euphoric from the win. I had an interesting exchange with a random older South Carolina fan while shuffling out with the crowd.

 

 

Random Fan in deep southern drawl: “I’ve been coming here for twenty eight years and I ain’t never seen nothing like this…”

 

 

Me: “This is my first ever game at South Carolina”.

 

 

Random Fan in complete shock: “Boy, you sure picked one helluva game for your first time”

 

 

Me: “Yeah, maybe you’d like me to come back here more often if this kinda thing will happen?”

 

 

Random Fan: “Son, I will PAY you to come back here again for this.”

 

 

 

The only bone I have to pick on the day lies more with the SEC than it does with South Carolina in particular. Evidently the SEC has the foolish rule of preventing students from rushing the field after a win. Should the school allow the students onto the field, students will be arrested and the school fined $100,000. As such, there was an armada of security personnel and SC State Troopers lining the field during the final few minutes, to prevent any “unruly” fans from leaving the stands to celebrate with their team. Personally, I think rushing the field is one of the more unique and appealing aspects of College Football. If you’re team just knocked off the #1 team in the country, there is no compelling reason why those fans, and especially students, shouldn’t be allowed onto the field in celebration with their team. Do better SEC.

Despite the arcane SEC rule, this was simply an unforgettable experience that happened to fall right into my lap. South Carolina fans are noted for their passion and dedication to the team, and it was evident throughout my entire raucous gameday experience in Columbia.

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South Carolina Tailgating & The Infamous “Cockaboose Railroad”

After braving the logjam of traffic getting off highway 77 (this was easily the largest game in Columbia in recent history) I slid into a parking space in one of the many warehouse parking lots in this industrial part of town, and began hoofing it over to the stadium area to check out another ballyhooed SEC tailgating scene.

The first stop to be made was over to the fabled South Carolina “Cockaboose Railroad” to have a glimpse at one of the most unique tailgating attractions in all of College Football. A mere fifty yards from Williams Brice stadium, you will find twenty two Gamecock garnet colored Cabooses occupying an abandoned stretch of railroad track. The “Cockabooses” have been completely renovated, and come complete with power, sewer, running water, roof decks, and a host of lavish interior appointments. Forget about your pop out RV, this is how tailgating is done in style.

In keeping with the gracious SEC hospitality I have encountered thus far, a very kind woman noticed my gaping jaw and invited me to have a look inside Cockaboose #10. Once inside, I was greeted by Hank, the owner, a dentist from Gaffney and proud South Carolina alum. After introducing me to his family, we exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes and talked about the upcoming game before I had to leave. On my way out, Hank offered his handshake and business card, telling me if I ever found myself in the area again, to stop on by for a visit. It’s this kind of genuine hospitality, to complete strangers, that make folks like Hank such a pleasant part of my College Football travels.

 

Following my tour of the Cockaboose railroad, I headed over to meet up with some of our favorite folks from the College Football tour in 2009 for a remarkable reunion tale. We met Lloyd and Cameron last season during our trip to Arkansas while hoisting a few beers in the Hog Haus Brewery in Fayetteville. Loyal South Carolina followers, they had made the trip out to watch the Gamecocks play the Hogs that day. After exchanging stories for a couple of hours, Lloyd told us that if we ever found ourselves in Columbia, we had a tailgate waiting for us. I bet he never thought I would actually take him up on that…

 

 

Reference last years post here:

 

http://www.pigskinpursuit.com/2009/11/aq-chicken-sham-hog-haus-brewery.html

 

 

After learning I was going to Columbia, Lloyd and I exchanged a few emails including directions to his tailgate spot and the promise of a beer only a stones throw from the stadium. True to form, I was greeted warmly by Lloyd along with an ice cold Yuengling and some sliders he painstakingly handmade that morning. We spent the next hour and half hoisting a few more Yuenglings, chatting about my travel schedule for the year, meeting various new friends at the tailgate, and postulating on the Gamecocks chances. Finally, I got a chance to meet the rest of Lloyds family that we had heard so much about, and they were all equally pleasant.

Pictured below: Lloyd, Grace (Cam’s GF), Cameron, Barbara and Peter

My only regret was not being able to hang around the tailgate longer, all the folks (Alabama fans included) were incredibly nice and welcoming. Lloyd himself has the rare gift of being a remarkable storyteller, so an afternoon can pass rather quickly around him, and I was almost sorry to head into the stadium.

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Maurice’s – BBQ Fail

Because of the short notice for my trip to South Carolina, I didn’t have time for my usual research and vetting process for appropriate fare. Couple that with a surprising lack of reliable barbecue reviews for South Carolina, and I opted for a simple, local institution figuring I would get a decent, reliable meal. Maurice’s BBQ fit the bill, with a handful of locations smattered throughout the Columbia area it seemed like a safe choice. This proved to be a stomach wrenchingly incorrect assumption.

Maurice’s “Real Pit” Barbecue turned out to be one of the most atrocious barbecue meals I’ve ever encountered. The fact that I ashamedly paid over twenty bucks for this hog slop was downright insulting. The meat might as well have been shoveled off a county roadside somewhere and I’d gladly eat rancid gutter possum before eating at Maurice’s again. I don’t need to belabor the individual meats with review (brisket, pulled pork, ribs, hash), except to say they were all virtually inedible and completely lacking any resemblance to BBQ (flavorless, smokeless, terribly cooked, cheap quality etc.). Furthermore, the meats were all adorned with an unsolicited South Carolina style mustard based sauce (giant red flag) which couldn’t possibly have saved any meal. It was thoroughly craptastic. Put another way, the highlight of my meal was the coleslaw; and I loathe coleslaw. I’d sooner be waterboarded than return to Maurice’s again.


The fact that a place like Maurice’s not only exists, but evidently thrives in Columbia (they have 14 locations) completely baffles the mind, and is a pox on the good people of Columbia.

Among a handful of the most egregious offenses at Maurice’s were:

1. I don’t know where they get the term “Real Pit” from. There isn’t anything remotely close to a pit on the premises, unless you count microwaves, heat lamps and warming trays. A “real pit” would, by necessity, require an actual chimney. You won’t find anything but a decorative one at Maurice’s, located on the other side of the building from the kitchen.

2. Barbecue, by its very nature, necessitates this thing called “wood”. It’s a fuel source used for cooking, typically derived from deciduous hardwood trees. Some commonly used varieties include oak, maple and hickory. Too bad you won’t find any of this “wood” at Maurice’s. I walked around the entire building to be sure and never found so much as a scrap of the stuff. The only thing I encountered was a drive thru window….ugh.

3. For those of you wondering, this is the reason why BBQ “sauce” is such a hot button issue for me, and why I generally eschew places that put undue resources and pride into their “sauce”. Maurice’s has over 4 different kinds of sauce proudly offered and sold throughout the restaurant, and they undoubtedly consider it a source of pride at their establishments. Unfortunately, the meat (you know the non-specific grey matter which the sauce graces) is so poorly considered here that no amount of sauce could ever rescue it from the depths of nausea.

Given the solid reputation that South Carolina enjoys for solid BBQ in general, I prefer to believe that Maurice’s is an anomaly. I look forward to exploring some more of the state to find something a bit more suitable to the palette. In closing, I can’t tell you where to find good BBQ in South Carolina yet, but I can certainly tell you where NOT to go: Maurice’s.

(I realize the above review was a bit harsh, and I don’t apologize for it. If you read around, I generally write very positive, praising reviews. But Maurice’s really was that bad.)

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