Twitter Picks for College Football Week Two

Game of the Week
#5 Oklahoma (1-0) at #2 Ohio State (1-0)
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC
Betting Favorite:  Ohio State by 7
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Oklahoma- 6th, Ohio State- 2nd

 

Big Game Guarantee
#14 Stanford (1-0) at #6 USC (1-0)
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX
Betting Favorite:  USC by 6
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Stanford- 15th, USC- 4th

 

Upset of the Week
#13 Auburn (1-0) at #3 Clemson (1-0)
Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Betting Favorite:  Clemson by 5
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Auburn- 8th, Clemson- 9th

 

Closer Than the Experts Think
Pittsburgh (1-0) at #4 Penn State (1-0)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Betting Favorite:  Penn State by 22
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Pittsburgh- unranked, Penn State- 3rd

 

Not Closer Than the Experts Think
Indiana (0-1) at Virginia (1-0)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Betting Favorite:  Indiana by 3
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Bad Spread Game
#15 Georgia (1-0) at #24 Notre Dame (1-0)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Betting Favorite:  Notre Dame by 5
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Georgia- 13th, Notre Dame- unranked

 

Group of Five Game of the Week
Western Michigan (0-1) at Michigan State (1-0)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
Betting Favorite:  Michigan State by 7
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Is This Futbol?
Wake Forest (1-0) at Boston College (1-0)
Saturday, 1:00 p.m. ET, ACCN
Betting Favorite:  Boston College by 1
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Is This Basketball?
South Carolina (1-0) at Missouri (1-0)
Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Betting Favorite:  Missouri by 2
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Toilet Bowl
Minnesota (1-0) at Oregon State (1-1)
Saturday, 10:00 p.m. ET, FS1
Betting Favorite:  Oregon State by 2
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Miscellaneous:  The Holy War
Utah (1-0) at BYU (0-1)
Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Betting Favorite:  Utah by 3
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Utah- 20th, BYU- unranked

 

NFL Game of the Week
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Betting Favorite:  Dallas by 4

 

 

For what it’s worth…

Overall Record: 5-6
College Overall Record: 5-6
NFL Game of the Week: 0-0

Game of the Week: 1-0
Big Game Guarantee: 0-1
Upset of the Week: 0-1
Closer Than the Experts Think: 0-1
Not Closer Than the Experts Think: 0-1
Overhyped/Bad Spread Game: 1-0
Group of Five Game of the Week: 1-0
Is This Futbol?: 1-0
Is This Basketball?: 1-0
Toilet Bowl: 0-1
Miscellaneous: 0-1

For an explanation of the categories for Twitter Picks, click here.

 

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Tournament Tweeting: ACC Second Round Recap and Quarterfinal Preview

Second Round Recap

First, some general tweets about the tournament:

 

#9 Miami 62, #8 Syracuse 57

A game that I predicted would be a low-scoring game got there eventually, but not before both teams scored early and often in the first half before slowing down.  In a true “tale of two halves,” it was the best of games early and the worst of games late.  Miami, who led 36-28 at halftime, shot 62 percent in the first half (13-21) and 30 percent in the second (9-30), while Syracuse shot 52 percent (11-21) and 35 percent (8-23), respectively.

Brooklyn native Kamari Murphy led Miami with a double-double, with 16 points and 10 rebounds.  Davon Reed scored 14, Ja’Quan Newton scored 11 with six assists, and D.J. Vasiljevic scored 13 off the bench.  Syracuse was led by Andrew White III with 22 points and Tyus Battle with 14, and while Tyler Lydon was held to five points, he had 12 rebounds.

Syracuse led just once in the second half, at 41-40 with 12:23 to play, but got as close as two in the final minute; John Gillon missed a potential game-tying three in the closing seconds.

Miami (21-10) advances to play top-seeded North Carolina on Thursday, while Syracuse (18-14) will now settle in for a stressful Selection Sunday, with many suggesting their resume may not make the NCAA Tournament cut.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, whose teams are 0-3 in the ACC Tournament since joining the league, made headlines after the game for comments (see below) that the ACC Tournament had no value in Greensboro (where it has been held 28 times and is set to return in 2020).

 

Tweets from throughout the game:

 

#5 Duke 79, #12 Clemson 72

Led by a trio of 20-point scorers, Duke slowly pulled away from Clemson in the second half before withstanding a late Clemson charge to hold on for the win.  Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson, and Stiles on Sports ACC Player of the Year Luke Kennard each scored 20 points for the Blue Devils, with Tatum grabbing nine rebounds and dishing four assists.  Amile Jefferson added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Grayson Allen, in 12 minutes, was held scoreless for the first time since 2015.

Jaron Blossomgame led Clemson with 19 points, adding eight rebounds, while Shelton Mitchell scored 17 and Marcquise Reed netted 13.  Sidy Djitte earned a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

A back-and-forth first half led to a 33-33 tie at halftime, before Duke slowly pulled away, leading 62-49 with 8:28 to go.  A 19-7 Clemson run pulled the Tigers to a 69-68 deficit at the 2:51 mark, but Clemson’s momentum sputtered down the stretch.  Late free throws by Tatum turned a 75-72 game with 0:36 left into the final 7-point margin.

The Blue Devils outshot the Tigers 49 percent (30-61) to 39 percent (22-56), although Clemson used free throw shooting (24-26, compared to Duke’s 14-18) to stay in the game.  Duke (24-8) advances to meet Louisville in a top-15 quarterfinal matchup, while Clemson (17-15) awaits, most likely, an NIT bid.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski improved to a near-unfathomable 58-22 in the ACC Tournament, tying North Carolina legend Dean Smith for the most wins in ACC Tournament history.

 

Tweets from throughout the game:

 

#7 Virginia Tech 99, #10 Wake Forest 90

The Hokies used a 62-point second half to come from behind and defeat Wake Forest in the second highest-scoring regulation game in ACC Tournament history.  Zach LeDay led the Hokies with 31 points and 15 rebounds, both the most by any player so far in the tournament.  Four additional Hokies scored in double figures–Seth Allen scored 18, Justin Bibbs scored 15, Ty Outlaw scored 14 and Ahmed Hill scored 13–while Justin Robinson dished out seven assists.

Wake Forest led 44-37 at halftime after the first half ended with reserve forward Greg McClinton hitting an 80-foot buzzer-beater when after the ball deflected into his arms on Virginia Tech’s last-second play; the shot was the first made three-pointer of the junior’s career.  From that point, however, the Hokies held a 62-44 advantage, shooting 62 percent in the second half (16-26) for the third highest-scoring half in a game in ACC Tournament history.

Bryant Crawford led the Demon Deacons with 21 points and fellow point guard Brandon Childress added 15, while John Collins (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Dinos Mitoglou (12 points, 13 rebounds) each earned double-doubles.  McClinton’s miraculous shot before the half marked his only points of the game in just two minutes of action.

Virginia Tech’s win avenged an 89-84 Wake Forest win in Saturday’s regular season finale, and ended the Demon Deacons’ four-game winning streak.  The Hokies (22-9) advance to meet Florida State on Thursday, while Wake Forest (19-13) will learn their NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday–most projections have the Deacs in the field, although whether or not they will play in the “First Four” in Dayton or earn a bye to the Round of 64 is unclear.

 

Tweets from throughout the game:

 
#6 Virginia 75, #14 Pittsburgh 63

Virginia’s defense was solid, as usual, but the Cavaliers played just as solid of an offensive game in their second round win over Pittsburgh.  The Cavaliers shot 50 percent from three-point range (11-22) and 52 percent from the field in the second half (11-21), and were balanced offensively with four players earning three or more assists:  Ty Jerome with four and Devon Hall, Kyle Guy and London Perrantes with three each.

Guy led the Cavaliers with 20 points, with Perrantes adding 15 and Jerome scoring 11, while Isaiah Wilkins had eight points and eight rebounds.  Pittsburgh was led by Cameron Johnson with 20, while Jamel Artis and Michael Young ended their collegiate careers with 18 and 14, respectively.

Virginia led 34-23 at halftime, and after Pittsburgh closed to a 44-43 deficit with 13:08 left, the Cavaliers held a 24-11 edge over a methodical stretch of over 10 minutes to put the game away.  While Virginia played well offensively, they held Pittsburgh to 40 percent from the field (18-45) and 34 percent from three (10-29).  Virginia’s bench scored 23 points, while Pitt’s was held scoreless.

Virginia (22-9) advances to play Notre Dame in Thursday’s quarterfinals, while the loss ended the season for Pittsburgh (16-17).

 

 

Tweets from throughout the game:

 

 

Quarterfinals Preview

#1 North Carolina (26-6, 14-4) vs. #9 Miami (21-10, 10-8)
12:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  North Carolina- 1st, Miami- 9th
AP Poll:  North Carolina- 6th, Miami- receiving votes
Regular Season:  January 28 at Miami:  Miami 77, North Carolina 62

 

#4 Louisville (24-7, 12-6) vs. #5 Duke (24-8, 11-7)
appr. 2:30 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Louisville- 2nd, Duke- 5th
AP Poll:  Louisville- 10th, Duke- 14th, Clemson- unranked
Regular Season:  Jan. 14 at Louisville:  Louisville 78, Duke 69

 

#2 Florida State (24-7, 12-6) vs. #7 Virginia Tech (22-9, 10-8)
7:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Florida State- 3rd, Virginia Tech- 7th
AP Poll:  Florida State- 16th, Virginia Tech- unranked
Regular Season:  Jan. 7 at Florida State:  Florida State 93, Virginia Tech 78

 

#3 Notre Dame (23-8, 12-6) vs. #6 Virginia (22-9, 11-7)
appr. 9:30 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Notre Dame- 6th, Virginia-4th
AP Poll:  Notre Dame- 22nd, Virginia- 21st
Regular Season:  Jan. 24 at Notre Dame:  Virginia 71, Notre Dame 54

 

For commentary throughout the ACC Tournament and most major sporting events, follow me on Twitter:  @cstiles24

 

For what it’s worth….

ACC Tournament Record:  5-2

First Round
Record:  2-1
Second Round Record:  3-1

Tournament Tweeting: ACC First Round Recap and Second Round Preview

First Round Recap

#12 Clemson 75, #13 NC State 61

The Tigers turned a 39-28 halftime lead into a comfortable victory, as the Wolfpack never got closer than 10 in the second half.  Clemson earned their third straight win–and first in the ACC Tournament since 2014–by outscoring NC State 40-22 in the paint.  The Tigers were led by Shelton Mitchell and Jaron Blossomgame with 22 points each, while Sidy Djitte led all players with 13 rebounds.

Abdul-Malik Abu and Maverick Rowan led NC State with 14 points each, while ACC Freshman of the Year Dennis Smith Jr. was held to seven points in reportedly his final collegiate game before turning pro.  The Wolfpack, who lost their 10th game in the 11 since a Jan. 23 win at Duke, shot only 38 percent from the floor (19-for-50) in their final game under coach Mark Gottfried, whose end-of-season firing was announced on Feb. 16.

 

Tweets from throughout the game:

 

#10 Wake Forest 92, #15 Boston College 78

The Demon Deacons used a 14-1 run in the second half to turn a 53-53 tie into a 67-54 lead, on their way to a 14-point win over Boston College for their first ACC Tournament win in three years.  Wake Forest’s Bryant Crawford led all players with 20 points and six assists, while All-ACC First Team forward John Collins turned a first-half struggle into a 19-point, 12-rebound performance.  Keyshawn Woods and Austin Arians added 17 for the Deacs, with Arians nailing five three-pointers.

Jerome Robinson led the Eagles with 17 points, as they were more competitive than many expected, but picked up their 15th straight loss.  ACC All-Freshman honoree Ky Bowman left with a knee injury late in the first half with seven points and two assists in 14 minutes.

Wake Forest, who likely solidified their NCAA Tournament bid with the victory, shot 53 percent from the field (25-47) and 47 percent (9-19) from three after hitting four in a row to start the game.  The Demon Deacons (33-43) made more free throws than the Eagles (18-26) attempted, and have now beat an opponent three times in a season for the first time since 2003 (Florida State).

Tweets from throughout the game:

 

#14 Pittsburgh 61, #11 Georgia Tech 59

An experienced Pittsburgh team who struggled all season extended their season another day, while ending the NCAA Tournament hopes of Georgia Tech (17-15), as the Panthers survived a final-minute surge by the Yellow Jackets for the 2-point win.  Pitt’s four seniors scored 53 of their 61 points, with Michael Young leading the way with 17, while Sheldon Jeter had 14 and Jamel Artis and Chris Jones each added 11.

Second Team All-ACC selection Ben Lammers was held to six points for Georgia Tech, although he grabbed 15 rebounds.  Tadric Jackson led the Yellow Jackets with 17 points, with Quinton Stephens adding 16 with 10 rebounds and Josh Okogie scoring 15.

Both teams struggled from the floor, with Pittsburgh shooting 39 percent (21-54) overall and 26 percent (6-23) from three, and Georgia Tech shooting 35 percent (22-62) overall and 22 percent (4-18) from three.  The Panthers, who assisted 15 of their 21 field goals, can guarantee NIT eligibility (a record of .500 or better) with a win tomorrow against Virginia, and such a quality win would help the likelihood of actually getting a bid as well.

 

Tweets from throughout the game:

 

For commentary throughout the ACC Tournament and most major sporting events, follow me on Twitter:  @cstiles24

 

Second Round Preview

#8 Syracuse (18-13, 10-8) vs. #9 Miami (20-10, 10-8)
12:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Favorite:  Miami by 2
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Syracuse- 10th, Miami- 9th
AP Poll:  Syracuse- unranked, Miami- receiving votes
Regular Season:  Jan. 4 at Syracuse:  Syracuse 70, Miami 55

 

#5 Duke (23-8, 11-7) vs. #12 Clemson (17-14, 6-12)
appr. 2:30 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Favorite:  Duke by 6.5
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Duke- 5th, Clemson- 11th
AP Poll:  Duke- 14th, Clemson- unranked
Regular Season:  Feb. 11 at Duke:  Duke 64, Clemson 62

 

#7 Virginia Tech (21-9, 10-8) vs. #10 Wake Forest (19-12, 9-9)
7:00 pm ET, ESPN2/ACC Network
Favorite:  Wake Forest by 2
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Virginia Tech- 7th, Wake Forest- 8th
AP Poll:  Virginia Tech- unranked, Wake Forest- receiving votes
Regular Season:  Mar. 4 at Virginia Tech:  Wake Forest 89, Virginia Tech 84

 

#6 Virginia (21-9, 11-7) vs. #14 Pittsburgh (16-16, 4-14)
appr. 9:30 pm ET, ESPN2/ACC Network
Favorite:  Virginia by 10
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Virginia-4th, Pittsburgh- 13th
AP Poll:  Virginia- 21st, Pittsburgh- unranked
Regular Season:  Jan. 4 at Pittsburgh:  Pittsburgh 88, Virginia 76, overtime;  Mar. 4 at Virginia:  Virginia 67, Pittsburgh 42

 

For what it’s worth….

ACC Tournament Record/First Round Record:  2-1

Tournament Tweeting: ACC First Round Preview

ACC Tournament First Round 

#12 Clemson (16-14, 6-12) vs. #13 NC State (15-16, 4–14)
12:00 pm ET, ESPN2/ACC Network
Spread:  Clemson by 6
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Clemson- 11th, NC State- 14th
AP Poll:  both teams are unranked
Regular Season:  March 1 at Clemson: Clemson 78, NC State 74

 

#10 Wake Forest (18-12, 9-9) vs. #15 Boston College (9-22, 2-16)
appr. 2:30 pm ET, ESPN2/ACC Network
Spread:  Wake Forest by 13
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Wake Forest- 8th, Boston College- 15th
AP Poll:  Wake Forest- receiving votes, Boston College- unranked
Regular Season:  Jan. 3 at Wake Forest: Wake Forest 79, Boston College 66; Jan. 31 at Boston College:  Wake Forest 85, Boston College 80

 

#11 Georgia Tech (17-14, 8-10) vs. #14 Pittsburgh (15-16, 4-14)
7:00 pm ET, ESPNU/ACC Network
Spread:  Pittsburgh by 1
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Georgia Tech- 12th, Pittsburgh- 13th
AP Poll:  both teams are unranked
Regular Season:  Feb. 28 at Georgia Tech:  Georgia Tech 61, Pittsburgh 52

 

Column: “WakeyLeaks” Is Disgusting–And Far From Over

Who knew Benedict Arnold was a Wake Forest broadcaster?

Wake Forest football fired radio analyst Tommy Elrod, a former player and assistant coach with the program, on Tuesday after an investigation found he had provided details of the team’s game planning to opposing teams, dating back to 2014.

A scandal that has already made Elrod’s name equivocal with Arnold and Judas Iscariot on the Winston-Salem campus has been nicknamed “WakeyLeaks,” and while it is more than baffling why Elrod undermined the Wake Forest program this severely, this situation is far from over.

A Mole’s Motivation

In the immediate aftermath, the biggest question is, simply, “Why?”

Elrod played quarterback for the Demon Deacons from 1993-97, and became a graduate assistant on coach Jim Grobe’s staff in 2003, working his way up the coaching ladder and becoming quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator.

His tenure on the coaching staff included Wake Forest’s improbable run to the 2006 ACC championship, and Elrod was a key to the relative success of four-year starting quarterbacks Riley Skinner and Tanner Price.

When Grobe resigned after the 2013 season, Dave Clawson was hired as the new head coach, and did not retain Elrod.  Elrod’s situation was not unique, as Clawson brought most of his staff from Bowling Green with him to Wake Forest, and only retained two coaches from Grobe’s staff (and none tenured more than two years).

Elrod, however, remained involved in the program as a radio broadcaster, and continued to have access to the teams practices, film, and game plans.

Elrod, a 41-year old Wake Forest lifer, did not necessarily fit the profile of the typical double agent, but must have clearly had some strong motivation.  It is possible Elrod was disgruntled about not being retained on Clawson’s staff, even with such personnel moves being normal during a coaching transition.

However, the more likely motive for Elrod’s treachery is money, assuming the possibility exists that other football programs could buy the game plan information Elrod was leaking.

Many who know Elrod are stunned at the revelation of his disloyalty to Wake Forest.  In various forms of media, Elrod has been described over the last 24 hours as a family man, active in the Winston-Salem community including charity work.  Skinner told ESPN Elrod was a “stand-up character guy.”

How Much Harm Has Been Done?

As an admitted Wake Forest fan, I naturally find Elrod’s alleged actions as senseless and beyond disappointing.

But the frustration of the fan base does not even scratch the surface here, when you consider the hours and hours of hard work done by the coaching staff and especially the student-athletes in game preparation, only to be undermined and cheated out of a fair chance come gameday. Wide receiver Marshall Williams’ reaction on Twitter (below) is likely similar to that of many current and recent Wake Forest players.

(Warning: strong language)

And beyond any emotional hurt done by the sedition, consider how rough a game football is, and how much knowledge of a team’s game plan could literally cause harm.

For instance, quarterback John Wolford has been sacked 91 times over the last three years, including several instances when he was injured by a sack.  How many of Wolford’s injuries might have been caused because the opposing defense knew the play and went after the quarterback?  There’s no way to know an exact number, but this shows how wide the scope of this could potentially be.

The Fallout

That said, this case is not over.  For one thing, a lawsuit one way or the other between Elrod and the football program is very possible, and Elrod has already hired an attorney.

But beyond that, when an informant provides inside information, someone else is the receiver of such information, and that is where this could get messy.

Wake Forest football is the victim, as one of their own breached the trust he had been given by those within the program.  But the opponents who took the information are just as guilty as Elrod, especially if money changed hands.

Any possibility of a cash flow for exclusive intelligence, a possibility which certainly exists here, should be investigated by both the ACC and the NCAA.  Wake Forest acted quickly in firing Elrod; hopefully the ACC and/or NCAA will be as efficient in getting to the bottom of this controversy.  (The ACC released a statement late Wednesday promising “due diligence” to the case to “protect competitive integrity.”)

One opponent who is almost certainly involved in some way is Louisville.  The investigation into a potential data breach within the Wake Forest program began after documents were found at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium the day before the Demon Deacons’ game with Louisville that contained information on plays Wake Forest had not run before.

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, who is no stranger to controversy, denied any knowledge of the situation at the time, and again on Wednesday, calling it simply a “Wake Forest issue.”  But with strong evidence that Elrod was working as an informant from the Wake Forest side, Petrino will have some questions to answer.

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said Wednesday that while Elrod did speak before the game to offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway, who coached alongside Elrod at Wake Forest in 2011-12, Louisville used none of that information on their way to a 44-12 win.

In addition to Galloway, Elrod does have connections to other recent Wake Forest opponents.  Brian Knorr coached at Wake Forest alongside Elrod, then was Indiana defensive coordinator in 2015 when the teams met.  Ray McCartney, another former Wake Forest assistant and Elrod colleague, was the Army defensive line coach in 2014-15, and the Demon Deacons played the Black Knights in both seasons.

So there were easy opportunities for Elrod to contact opposing coaches at at least three schools that Wake Forest has played since 2014, and there could also be more less discernible connections that helped Elrod spread this information.

Likely the only person who knows every detail of Elrod’s subterfuge is Elrod himself, who has remained quiet thus far, erasing his presence on social media and not answering contact requests from the media.

In addition to being fired from his broadcasting position, Elrod is banned from all Wake Forest athletic events and facilities.  Elrod voluntarily resigned Monday from his position as director of business management for Verger Investment LLC, a firm created by Wake Forest to manage the university’s investments.

If all of the developments about Elrod are true, he has performed a disgraceful, repugnant, and subversive series of actions that have undermined the capability of the Wake Forest team to have adequate opportunity to compete fairly on the football field.

In other words, Benedict Arnold now has some company in the sports world.

 

Related:  Former Wake Forest Football Assistant Provided Game Plan Information to Opponents  (includes text of Wake Forest press release and statements from athletic director Ron Wellman and head football coach Dave Clawson)

Fast Five: I Was There

I have been to plenty of sporting events, but some stand out more than others in my memory bank as the best events I’ve ever seen.  Each has their own unique story from my individual perspective.

October 4th marked the release of the new book I Was There, in which 65 of the biggest names in sports media share the five greatest sporting events they have witnessed in person.  The book was compiled by self-described “sports industry lifer” Eric Mirlis.

The criteria for the book is intentionally vague, meaning each contributor to the book can have their own interpretation of what their “greatest events” are.  As a result, in addition to the obvious examples of classic Super Bowls and championship games or series, there are some very outside-the-box events listed by the book’s participants.  Some of the events listed are all-time classics, while others have a deeper personal meaning.

The five events listed by each contributor are listed in chronological order, allowing the writers and broadcasters participating to not have to rank any of their five events over another.

I have seen 14 NASCAR races (10 Cup Series, 3 XFinity Series, 1 Truck Series), 11 MLB games, six ACC men’s basketball games, five PGA Tour events (but nine rounds), 2 FBS college football games, one NBA game, and too many Division II college games, Minor League Baseball games, collegiate summer league baseball games, and high school games to count.

But like anyone else, some of mine stand out, for different reasons.  And while I have not seen a Super Bowl or a World Series game, I have still seen some amazing events.

Here are the five greatest events I have witnessed, plus the five best I have covered:

Five Best Events I’ve Witnessed

Wake Forest at Clemson, Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, S.C., January 24, 2015

I attend school at Anderson University, about 30 minutes away from Clemson’s campus, but having grown up in the Triad of North Carolina, I am a Wake Forest fan.  For Christmas a month before, I was given two tickets to Wake Forest’s game at Clemson.  I took my friend Garrett, a Clemson fan, and our seats were in the very last row, near the location of the TV cameras.

Wake Forest was in their first year under coach Danny Manning, after a 2-32 ACC road record under previous coach Jeff Bzdelik, and came in at 9-10 and 1-5 in the ACC, while Clemson entered at 10-8 and 2-4, so this was still a game between two bottom-half teams, but it was still an ACC men’s basketball game.

The Demon Deacons led over 39 minutes of the game, before Clemson took the lead with 0:58 left, and Wake Forest tied the game with a Devin Thomas free throw with 0:35.  Thomas missed the second free throw, but the Deacs got the rebound and looked like they would have the ability to set up the last shot and try to win.  But after Codi Miller-McIntyre turned the ball over with 0:25 left, and after Rod Hall drove inside but missed his shot, little-used reserve Josh Smith, who had just 14 baskets his last 19 games, got an offensive rebound and putback to put Clemson up 59-57 with 0.5 seconds left.  The play was essentially a buzzer-beater, and gave Wake Forest (another) heartbreaking loss on the road in ACC play.

Garrett could not have been more grateful for the free ticket to the game, so when the shot fell in, this was his reaction:  “Yeaaah! Yeaaah! (turns to me) Sorry. (turns back to the court) Yeaaah!”

Wyndham Championship, First Round, Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro, N.C., August 18, 2015

Growing up in the Piedmont Triad, I attended the Wyndham Championship each year from 2007-09.  I saw the first PGA Tour wins of Brandt Snedeker (2007) and Ryan Moore (2009), as well as hometown favorite Carl Petterson’s lights-out round of 61 on his way to victory (2008).  We moved to South Carolina in late 2009, so I had not been back to Sedgefield since.

The week before the 2015 edition, with the Wyndham marking the last event of the PGA Tour’s “regular season” before the FedEx Cup Playoffs, I wondered if Tiger Woods, who was 187th in points, well below the playoff cutoff, may come to Greensboro for the first time in his career.  It seemed like a long shot, as under similar circumstances in 2011 he did not play in Greensboro and accepted his fate of his season being over.

And yet, the Friday night before the Wyndham, Woods committed to the event.  With one of the greatest athletes of all time coming to the Wyndham, which I still considered my “home event” on the PGA Tour, I bought a ticket for Thursday’s opening round within minutes of the announcement he was coming.  My non-golfing aunt, Terri, also decided to go and take in history–I don’t think she knew who any of the other 155 players in the field were, but she wanted to see Tiger Woods too.

We arrived at Sedgefield early enough to see Tiger warm up, then began following his group when he teed off.  I had seen Tiger at Quail Hollow in Charlotte in 2009, but this day would be much better.  Tiger teed off at 7:50 am, meaning Tiger’s gallery was smaller that day than any other day of the tournament, and seeing him in the Wyndham for the first time was a dream come true.  It became even more amazing when he played very well.

Tiger holed an incredible pitch shot for birdie on the 10th hole (his first hole), then bogeyed 11, leading me to think he had shown a glimmer of his old self before fading back into his struggles.  I was wrong, as he would birdie the 13th, 15th, and 18th holes for a 3-under-par 32 on the back nine, before birdieing the first, fourth, and fifth in a bogey-free front nine to shoot a round of 64.

This was (and still is) Tiger’s lowest round in competition since 2013.  Playing with Tiger were Hideki Matsuyama, who shot 65, and Brooks Koepka (who would eventually be a big part of last week’s U.S. Ryder Cup victory), who shot 67, but this was Tiger’s day.

Tiger, who needed to finish at least second to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs, would shoot a 65 the following day, and entered the weekend tied for the lead, and played well again on Saturday, entering the final round in a tie for second, before a triple-bogey on the 11th on Sunday ended his shot at victory and advancement.

Two weeks later, Tiger announced he had undergone more back surgery, and was out indefinitely.  Throughout 2016 he hinted at a comeback, but the 2015 Wyndham Championship is still his last start on the PGA Tour to date.

*Editor’s note:  to read more on my day following Tiger Woods at the Wyndham Championship, click here.


Bojangles’ Southern 500, Darlington Raceway, Darlington, S.C., September 6, 2015

Early in the 2015 NASCAR season, my friend Kevin told me he would very likely be able to get pit passes to Darlington for Southern 500 weekend.  I made sure he got us a third pit pass so Terri, the reason I am a racing fan to begin with, could come along.  She had never been to Darlington, but now would now, through the pit passes, get the greatest access in all of sports.

Kevin came in on Friday night, and him and I spent Saturday at the track for Cup Series qualifying and the XFinity Series event.  Kevin is friends with Harrison Rhodes, an NC State student by week and racecar driver by weekend, who was driving in the event.  As a result, we sat on his pit box for the entire time that he was in the race (he parked after 80 laps for his team’s financial reasons).  Denny Hamlin, Kevin’s favorite driver, won that Saturday event.

My favorite driver is Jeff Gordon, who was in his last season and was making what was supposed to be his final start at one of his best tracks (he ended up running Darlington again in 2016, filling in for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr.).  The pit passes allowed me to get his autograph on Sunday, as well as many other drivers.  We watched cars go through technical inspection up close, then made our way to pit road for the race itself.

This was the first year Darlington hosted a “throwback weekend,” so many of the paint schemes were throwbacks to the legends of years past.  The track played 70’s music over the speakers in the hours leading up to the race, and Tanya Tucker sang the national anthem.

Multiple MRN Radio announcers called this the “race of the year,” as there were 24 lead changes among 11 drivers, and 18 caution flags over the 367 laps that make up 500 miles around the venerable egg-shaped oval.  As the race got late, Brad Keselowski appeared to have a strong grip on the race lead, as he led every lap from lap 304 to 356 (except during pit stops) before a late caution bunched up the field.

On the final restart, Carl Edwards took the lead away, and led the remaining laps to win his first Southern 500.  During the “cool-down lap,” as Edwards came back around to the frontstretch, Kevin and I took off running towards the center of pit road to get a view of Edwards’ famous backflip celebration, which was cool to see in person.

One takeaway from this race is how much I found it ironic that with pit passes, the best access a fan can get in any sport, you still ended up essentially watching the race on TV, as we watched the monitors on the back of each team’s pit box.


Racing Electronics 100, Bowman Gray Stadium, Winston-Salem, N.C., August 5, 2016

Bowman Gray Stadium is a bull-ring short track in eastern Winston-Salem, in a stadium that doubles as the home of Winston-Salem State University football.  The track is one of the longest-running short tracks in the country, and is known as “The Madhouse” after many of the wild events which have unfolded on the quarter-mile circuit.

I lived about 20 minutes from Bowman Gray Stadium growing up, but only went to a race there once before we moved to South Carolina.  This summer I lived in the area again, while interning for the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, so one of the things I wanted to do during the summer was to go to a Bowman Gray race with Terri.  The schedule made it difficult, as the Asheboro Copperheads had a game nearly every Saturday night, but we looked at Bowman Gray’s schedule and saw a Friday night in early August when the Copperheads were away.

We got to the track early enough to see the famous modifieds make their qualifying runs, followed by preliminary races featuring cars called Bandoleros.  These were short races featuring pre-teen up-and-coming drivers in cars that were not very powerful, but could still put on a decent show.

The modifieds then came out for their 100-lapper, and were led to the green by local legend Burt Myers.  Tim Brown, another longtime Bowman Gray driver and multi-time track champion, started at the back after his engine misfired in qualifying.  While I watched the action at the front, I also kept an eye on Brown at the back, and early in the race he struggled to make headway trying to get through the field.

Cautions and restarts helped aide Brown, and eventually on a restart with about 25 to go he was second, on the outside of Myers, who had led from the outset.  On the restart, Brown passed Myers off of turn two on the outside, a hard feat in short-track racing, to take the lead for the first time.

Two laps later, while Myers was trying to chase Brown back down, the skies opened up and a heavy rainstorm hit Bowman Gray.  Brown was awarded the win in the rain-shortened race, a victory that was likely among his finest, considering how hard he had to work to get through the field.

Terri and I got back to my grandparents’ house, where I was spending the summer, in time to watch most of the parade of nations at the Rio Olympics.  I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the last race I attended with Terri before she unexpectedly passed away a month later.

 

Detroit Tigers at Atlanta Braves, Turner Field, Atlanta, Ga., October 2, 2016

Emotions are always higher when you are seeing something happen that will never happen again, and the same is true in sports.  Every MLB game I have ever attended was at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, and on this day I was fortunate enough to attend the final game in the venue’s history.  I got upper deck tickets for my dad and I for his birthday, knowing how much of an affection both of us have for the stadium.

Dad left home in Mullins before 5 a.m., and was in Anderson before 9, and we were on our way.  We took the MARTA train and bus to the stadium, and arrived shortly after the gates opened.

The Braves Museum and Hall of Fame was open to the public for free, so we walked through and explored the history of the Braves franchise through its years in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta.  It was the first time since 2005 either of us had seen the museum.

We got to our seat about 45 minutes before the 3:10 p.m. first pitch, and took in the pregame ceremony, in which Braves legends including Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and Javy Lopez all took the field as part of the All-Turner Field Team.  That team also included “The Big Three” of Hall of Fame pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, who threw out ceremonial first pitches after being delivered baseballs by Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox.

The opponent for the final game was the Detroit Tigers, who were still playing for the possibility of a postseason bid, and needed a win over the Braves and some help to stay alive.  Given those circumstances, the Tigers sent ace Justin Verlander, one of the game’s best pitchers, to the mound, a nice parallel to my first game at Turner Field in 2001 when I saw Maddux pitch.  Julio Teheran, a solid pitcher in his own right, pitched for the Braves.

After Teheran struck out the side in the top of the first, Ender Inciarte and Adonis Garcia led off the bottom half with singles, before Freddie Freeman got his 91st and final RBI of a career year with a sacrifice fly to center, giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.

After the first, it was the pitcher’s duel you would expect from Teheran and Verlander, as the two pitchers put up matching zeros, including many 1-2-3 innings.  Each starter went seven innings, before Jose Ramirez (ATL) and Bruce Rondon (DET) each pitched a scoreless eighth.

Jim Johnson, whose two-year contract extension with the Braves had been announced that morning, came in to close it in the ninth.  After a 1-out single by Miguel Cabrera, Johnson struck out J.D. Martinez and former Brave Justin Upton for the final two outs at Turner Field.

After the game, Hank Aaron threw a ceremonial final pitch to Cox, before Aaron and Braves chairman Terry McGuirk transferred home plate from Turner Field to SunTrust Park, the Braves home starting in 2017, via police escort.  The closing ceremony also featured a “parade of Braves Country states,” a nod to Turner Field’s history as Centennial Olympic Stadium and the 1996 Olympic opening ceremony, before remarks from broadcaster Don Sutton, Cox, Smoltz, and Braves vice-chairman John Schuerholz, who led the crowd in one final rendition of the famous “tomahawk chop” chant.

No, this wasn’t the closing of Yankee Stadium, but this was the final game at a place where we watched our favorite team play for 20 years, and for my entire span of memory (I’m 21).  So many memories were made at Turner Field, and the final game there is one I won’t forget.

Five Best Events I’ve Covered

Coastal Plain League West Division Championship Series, Gastonia Grizzlies vs. Florence RedWolves, August 10-12, 2014

I interned for the Florence RedWolves, a collegiate summer baseball team, in the summers of 2014-15, staying at home and commuting 30 minutes to Sparrow Stadium on the campus of Francis Marion University.  In 2014, the RedWolves won the Coastal Plain League’s West Division in both the first and second half of the season, and had a good shot at winning the franchise’s first Petitt Cup title in the playoffs.

After dispatching the High Point-Thomasville HiToms in an opening round sweep, the West Division Championship Series featured the two teams who had clearly been the division’s best all season, the RedWolves and the Gastonia Grizzlies.  The three games that ensued are collectively on this list, as the drama of playoff baseball and the budding rivalry of the two teams produced the best back-to-back-to-back games I have ever seen, which can be included as events I “covered” as I wrote the postgame press releases for the final two games.

Game 1 at Gastonia:
Several of us interns drove up to the suberb west of Charlotte and Sims Legion Park, the Grizzlies’ home.  Gastonia took a 1-0 lead in the first, but the RedWolves had a 3-1 lead by the seventh inning stretch.  The Grizzlies tied it in the 7th on a 2-RBI single by Weston Lawing, but after that both bullpens were absolutely phenomenal as an extra-inning game ensued late into the night.

RedWolves reliever Jacob Condra-Bogan allowed two runs in the seventh, but none for four innings after, and CPL Pitcher of the Year, closer Michael Morrison (a 2016 College World Series hero at Coastal Carolina), was scoreless in 5.1 innings.  Gastonia hurlers Robert Lawhon and Jared Cheek were just as impressive.

The RedWolves finally took the lead in the 16th on an RBI single by Joe Bialkowski and an RBI double by Brandon Rawe, and got three outs to win 5-3 and take a 1-0 series lead, winning the longest playoff game in CPL history.

Game 2 at Florence:
Back at home, the RedWolves were trying to clinch the best-of-three series in what would be a back-and-forth affair with a lot of “small ball” in the notoriously large Sparrow Stadium.  The RedWolves led 1-0 after the second, trailed 2-1 in the third, and led 3-2 after the third.  Each side scored in the fourth, making it 4-3, before Gastonia tied it 4-4 in the fifth, and Florence retook the lead at 5-4 in the sixth.

The RedWolves kept the one-run lead until the ninth, before Gastonia exploded (and Florence imploded) in the ninth:  double, sacrifice bunt, RBI single, error, RBI single, RBI fielder’s choice (no out recorded), RBI fielder’s choice (no out recorded), strikeout, RBI single, 2-RBI triple, walk, flyout.  This may be the worst inning I have ever sat through, as the RedWolves went from two outs from winning the series to down 11-5 in a matter of minutes.  I didn’t bore you by listing each Gastonia player’s role in the inning, but I will add that Victor Zecca had the leadoff double and the 2-RBI triple.

But there was still a bottom of the ninth.  The RedWolves got the bases loaded with one out, before a Brandon Rawe sacrifice fly made it 11-6, and a wild pitch made it 11-7.  After loading the bases again, team RBI leader Conor Sullivan came to the plate representing the potential tying run.  It seemed like the potential perfect scenario for Florence, but Sullivan flied out to the warning track in straightaway center, the deepest part of a big ballpark, for the final out.

Game 3 at Florence:
The winner-take-all finale was more low-scoring than the first two games, but was just as entertaining.  The RedWolves took a 1-0 lead in the first, after CPL Hitter of the Year Gene Cone walked, was bunted to second, and scored when he stole third and the catcher threw the ball away.

Travis Burnette (FLO) and Sam Theole (GAS) were fantastic for both sides, matching zeroes and enduring a nearly one-hour rain delay mid-game.  Gastonia never had more than one baserunner in an inning through the first eight, meaning the 1-0 Florence lead had been as comfortable as such a lead can be in an elimination game.

In the ninth, Lawing was hit with a pitch, and Chris Robinson doubled with one out.  Morrison, running on fumes after his outing two nights before, came in and intentionally walked Sammy Taormina to load the bases with one out.  I was having flashbacks to the night before, but Morrison struck out Tyler Farmer and got Joe Koehler to ground out to second base, ending the threat and the game, giving the RedWolves a 1-0 win and a 2-1 series victory.

The emotional release of the final out led to me, as public address announcer, borrowing Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling’s line of “Yankees win! Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Yankees wwwwwwin!” and exclaiming “RedWolves win! Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa RedWolves wwwwwwin!”

The RedWolves moved on to the Petitt Cup Finals, where they won the opener over the Peninsula Pilots in Florence, before losing two heartbreaking games at Peninsula’s home in Hampton, Va.

(Box score and play-by-play for:  Game 1    Game 2    Game 3)

 

Westside at T.L. Hanna, T.L. Hanna Gymnasium, Anderson, S.C., January 16, 2015

I began covering high school sports for the Anderson Independent-Mail on a freelance basis in the fall of 2014, under prep editor Adam Regan.  He left at the end of the year, taking another job in Florida, leaving me to cover the lead games in the area while the paper looked for a replacement, leading to my best assignment to that point when I got to cover a basketball game between crosstown rivals T.L. Hanna and Westside.

For someone covering high school sports in Anderson County, T.L. Hanna and Westside games might as well be the Super Bowl.  The entire town turns out for these games, and it is loud as everyone cheers boisterously for their chosen team.

After the Westside girls team defeated T.L. Hanna 49-33, attention turned to the boys game.  There was honestly more tension in the building as the boys warmed up then there had been at any time during the girls game.

After an even first quarter, T.L. Hanna led 18-14, and they stretched that lead to 30-21 at halftime.  Hanna led by as many as 11 in the third, at 48-37, before Westside started to come back, using seven points in the final 52 seconds of the period to cut it to 53-46.

Westside’s momentum continued in the fourth, as a 10-2 run gave them a 56-55 lead, their first since 3-1.  Hanna tied it again at 57-57, but did not score again, with Westside leading 59-57 in the final minute before an Austin Walker driving shot with 0:31 left make it 61-57 Westside, and two free throws further sealed the win, as the Rams stunned the Yellow Jackets, 63-57.

I have seen a football game and a basketball game between the two schools since as a spectator (and both went to overtime), but this remains the only game in either of the two big high school sports that I have covered between the two (although I have covered many games featuring one or the other, as well as two softball games between the two).  Sitting courtside, and being a part of the game (at least in the sense of covering it) was a treat.

(Independent-Mail:  Westside boys, girls defeat T.L. Hanna)

 

Clemson at Anderson, Abney Athletic Center, Anderson, S.C., November 8, 2015

As an Anderson University student, this game had been circled on my calendar for months.  The Trojan women had won the regular-season conference title the year before, and were, even as a Division II team, getting the chance to host Division I Clemson from the ACC in a preseason exhibition.  A week or so before the game, Scott Adamson, who was Independent-Mail sports editor at the time, approached me about covering the game.  The writers who normally covered Clemson were focusing on the undefeated football team, and Scott, who normally covered Anderson games, would be busy working a Clemson soccer game, giving me the opportunity to cover a game I could literally have walked to.

The Anderson men had played Clemson 52 weeks before at Littlejohn Coliseum, and I had attended that game as a fan, but this game was even cooler to me because I thought Anderson had a shot to win.  The Trojan women were preseason favorites in the South Atlantic Conference, while Clemson was picked to finished last in the ACC.

A record crowd of 1,027 packed the Abney Athletic Center on a Sunday afternoon, with the student section doing a “blackout” of the section of seats across from the two benches.

The first half was back-and-forth throughout, with Anderson leading 34-31 at the break.  A 22-9 Trojans run gave Anderson a 54-40 in the third, before Clemson fought back to make it 56-48 at the end of the third, but from that point it was all Trojans, closing the game on a 23-7 run to win 79-55.

The game was better than the final score would indicate, but beyond that, this was the first (and so far only) collegiate game I covered for Independent-Mail, and featured my school beating our ACC neighbors.  I was thrilled with the outcome, although I was there in a professional capacity, so I did no cheering and probably did not even smile during the game.  I was there covering the game, not as a fan or student.

I kept that poker face through postgame interviews, and through the 90-second car ride back to my room, until I walked through the door.  Once I was in the privacy of my room, I finally let out a huge fist pump in celebration of the Trojans’ big win.

Anderson would win the SAC regular season title for the second straight year, while Clemson went winless in conference play to finish last in the ACC, with the results for both teams reflecting what had been foreshadowed in November at the Abney Athletic Center.

(Independent-Mail:  AU women demolish Clemson)


Florence RedWolves at Asheboro Copperheads, McCrary Park, Asheboro, N.C., July 16, 2016

For the summer of 2016, I interned with the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro.  My role was originally to cover American Legion baseball games and the Asheboro Copperheads, a team in the same league as the RedWolves, for the paper.  However, once sports editor Dennis Garcia, who was also the play-by-play broadcaster for the Copperheads on CPL Webpass, found out I had called a few games on Webpass for the RedWolves two years before, he invited me to do some games with him on Webpass.  I would end up broadcasting every Copperheads home game except one on Webpass, even doing some games solo when Dennis was stuck at the office finishing the layout of the sports section of the paper, including this one.

It was weird when the RedWolves, who I had spent the previous two summers interning for, came to Asheboro for games.  Before the July 16 contest, the two teams had already played in Asheboro on June 13 and July 13, and five times in all, but this game stands out as not just the best these two teams played that season, but the best game overall that I covered that season.

It didn’t look that way at first, as Florence scored six runs in the top of the first, on just three hits with two Asheboro errors, and two more in the second to make it 8-0.  In the bottom of the second, Connor Lind showed a small sign of the offensive onslaught that was to come for Asheboro with a solo homer, although at the time it just made the score 8-1.

In the fourth, T.J. Nichting singled, and Lind homered again, making it 8-3.  Colin Rosenbaum then walked, and Vito Friscia homered, making it 8-5.  Later in the inning, Zach Duff joined the home run party with a solo shot to make it 8-6.

After a Ryan Kent sacrifice fly for Florence in the fifth made it 9-6, Nichting led off the bottom half with a homer, before Rosenbaum singled and Friscia homered again, tying the game at 9-9.  Asheboro would then take a 10-9 lead in the sixth when Rosenbaum doubled to score Lind, before holding that lead until the ninth.

Bryan Blanton, who had been a CPL All-Star but was beginning a set of struggles that would haunt both he and the Copperheads in the second half, came in in the ninth, and even after three walks in the inning was an out away from getting out of the jam, before CPL All-Star Zach Files singled, scoring two to give the RedWolves an 11-10 lead.  The Copperheads threatened in the ninth when RedWolves closer Tom Colletti walked a pair, but could not score, and the RedWolves had a wild 11-10 victory.

The Copperheads, who had won the CPL West first half title, continued to struggle through the rest of the second half after this game, and eventually lost at Savannah in the first round of the playoffs on a walkoff hit.  Florence, who had finished seventh out of eight in the first half, had a much better second half and missed the second half title, and therefore the playoffs, by one game.

(Box score and play-by-play)

 

Greenwood at T.L. Hanna, Jim Fraser Field, Anderson, S.C., September 23, 2016

This was my first trip to T.L. Hanna in the 2016 season, and it seemed like just a run-of-the-mill game at first.  It was homecoming for the Yellow Jackets, who had lost to Greenwood 18 straight seasons before ending the streak last year.  What seemed like an ordinary game would become the greatest football game I’ve ever covered.

After a scoreless first quarter, Greenwood and Hanna both scored on long touchdown passes, then both kicked field goals in the final 1:04 of the half, making it 10-10 at the break.

Greenwood started the second half with a 15-play scoring drive of 65 yards, before Hanna went 65 yards themselves in one play, an Alex Meredith-to-A.J. Bryant connection to tie the score at 17-17.  This remained the score into the early stages of the fourth, before Greenwood scored on another lengthy drive on a Dre Yarbough touchdown pass to highly touted receiver Sam Pinckney, but the Eagles missed the extra point, keeping it 23-17.

Braylon Peterson returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown, as Hanna provided another answer and took a 24-23 lead.  Greenwood had their own answer, an 11-play scoring drive culminating in another Yarbough-to-Pinckney touchdown, and a two-point conversion to make it 31-24 with 2:03 to play.

Hanna calmly marched down the field in five plays, scoring to tie the game at 31-31 with 1:06 to go when Meredith found Reel Wise from 35 yards, sending the game to overtime.

In the extra session, Greenwood scored when Yarbough found Pinckney again from 10 yards on the first play of overtime (high school overtime in South Carolina gives each team a possession from the 10-yard line).  The Yellow Jackets answered again, when Meredith turned a broken play into a 9-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 38-38.

In double overtime, Hanna went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, as Jaydon McKinney scored for the 45-38 lead.  On the first play of Greenwood’s possession, they ran the same play they scored on in the first overtime, and Hanna LB Shai Thomas jumped the route and intercepted Yarbough to end the game and give Hanna a 45-38 win.

I finished postgame interviews about 10:55, and the Independent-Mail has an 11:00 deadline, but one which is stretchable.  Prep editor Lake Morris said it could be stretched to 11:40 at the latest, and I finished writing about 11:35; I was glad to make sure the story of this crazy game got in the next morning’s paper.

(Independent-Mail:  Thomas INT leads Hanna over Eagles)

 

Honorable Mention:
Pickens at Belton-Honea Path,  April 22, 2016
The game itself was nothing spectacular, as B.H.P. took an early lead before putting the game away with a 8-run sixth inning to win 10-0, but it was historic as, on Senior Night, Bears coach Steve Williams won his 500th game.  His postgame interview is the only time an interview subject of mine was moved to the point of tears, as Williams was humbled and grateful for his accomplishment, and how many former players came back to witness the milestone game.  I got lucky on this one–I was scheduled to cover a different game until late that afternoon when weather changed the Independent-Mail‘s plans.

(Independent-Mail:  Williams wins No. 500 as Bears top Pickens)
***Editor’s Note:  This game was one of the five in the original draft of this post, which was written before the Greenwood-T.L. Hanna game occurred, so I felt it appropriate to include it as an honorable mention.

Twitter Picks for College Football Week Five

Game of the Week

#3 Louisville (4-0) at #5 Clemson (4-0)
Saturday, 8:00 pm ET, ABC
Favorite:  Louisville by 2
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Louisville- 2nd, Clemson- 3rd

 

Big Game Guarantee

#7 Stanford (3-0) at #10 Washington (4-0)
Friday, 9:00 pm ET, ESPN
Favorite:  Washington by 3
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Stanford- 8th, Washington- 12th

 

Upset of the Week

Missouri (2-2) at LSU (2-2)
Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, SECN
Favorite:  LSU by 13
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Closer Than the Experts Think

North Carolina (3-1) at #12 Florida State (3-1)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, ESPN
Favorite:  Florida State by 11
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  North Carolina- 18th, Florida State- 10th

 

Not Closer Than the Experts Think

#11 Tennessee (4-0) at #25 Georgia (3-1)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, CBS
Favorite:  Tennessee by 3
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Tennessee- 9th, Georgia- unranked

 

Overhyped Game

Arizona State (4-0) at USC (1-3)
Saturday, 8:30 pm ET, FOX
Favorite:  USC by 10
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Group of Five Game of the Week

Navy (3-0) at Air Force (3-0)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, CBSSN
Favorite:  Air Force by 7
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Is This Futbol?

#8 Wisconsin (4-0) at #4 Michigan (4-0)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, ABC
Favorite:  Michigan by 10
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Wisconsin- 6th, Michigan- 4th

 

Is This Basketball?

Oklahoma (1-2) at #21 TCU (3-1)
Saturday, 5:00 pm ET, FOX
Favorite:  TCU by 4
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Oklahoma- 19th, TCU- 24th

 

Toilet Bowl

Kansas (1-2) at Texas Tech (2-1)
Thursday, 8:30 pm ET, FS1
Favorite:  Texas Tech by 29
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Miscellaneous:  House Divided

Wake Forest (4-0) at NC State (2-1)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, RSN
Favorite:  NC State by 11
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

NFL Game of the Week

New York Giants (2-1) at Minnesota Vikings (3-0)
Monday, 8:30 pm ET, ESPN
Favorite:  Vikings by 5

 

 

For what it’s worth…

Overall Record:  23-24
Last Week:  8-4
College Overall Record: 22-22
NFL Game of the Week: 1-2

Game of the Week:  2-2
Big Game Guarantee:  2-2
Upset of the Week:  0-4
Closer Than the Experts Think:  1-3
Not Closer Than the Experts Think:  3-1
Overhyped Game:  2-2
Group of Five Game of the Week:  4-0
Is This Futbol?:  2-2
Is This Basketball?:  3-1
Toilet Bowl:  1-3
Miscellaneous:  2-2

For an explanation of the categories for Twitter Picks, click here.