Awards: Quote of the Year
A quote defining a game is nothing out of the ordinary. But when it defines an entire season, it deserves an echo. Destany McLin and Eli Jenkins already took claim Gamecock Illustrated’s Breakout Player of the Year Award. The duo can now take claim to the Quote of the Year. Their words defined their seasons.
Losing is never fun, but losing the same way over and over can be down right frustrating. That is where the Gamecocks found themselves in the first half of the season.
Opposing teams found success using the full-court trap defense against the Gamecocks and pushed them to six straight losses, its longest losing streak of the season. After a 60-54 loss to Mercer in Dec. 17, sophomore guard Destany McLin delivered Gamecock Illustrated’s Quote of the Year:
“I can put it this way: Once we do start winning, and we get the feel for it, I guarantee you we’re going to continue to do it.”
The losing streak ended with a 73-63 win over South Carolina State in their next game. The Gamecocks went 12-9 the remainder of the season and earned the No. 6 seed in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. The turning point of the season is generally seen as the 42-point loss to Belmont on Jan. 6. With closer examination, McLin’s quote makes a strong case as well.
Even though the season is long over, McLin’s quote maintains its validity. This season, the Gamecocks only started winning. After only losing LeCresha Horton and landing a signing class that includes the top two scorers all-time in Alabama, the Gamecocks could be poised to win the OVC next year and for years to come.
If the FCS Playoffs selection committee didn’t hear what Eli Jenkins said after beating Southeast Missouri 42-34, it sure felt like they did.
The redshirt-freshman was asked how strong of a case the Gamecocks had to make the playoffs after finishing third in the OVC. He answered with our Quote of the Year:
“I feel like if we get in, we’ll be hard to beat. If we get in, we’ll keep playing. If we don’t, it’s been a good season. I feel like if we do get in, we’ll be hard to beat.”
The Gamecocks did get in the next morning and Jenkins stayed true to his word. The Gamecocks were most definitely hard to beat.
Samford was first to feel the Gamecocks’ wrath. JSU dominated its former OVC rival with a 55-14 blowout win at home. McNeese State was next in line. After totaling a school record 11 sacks and forcing three turnovers, the Gamecocks left Lake Charles, LA with a 31-10 win.
Unfortunately, Eastern Washington was the final stop this season. The Eagles defeated JSU 35-24. But JSU didn’t make it easy for them, especially Jenkins. Before exiting with an injury, he had completed 12-of-14 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 120 yards, including the 40-yard run that ended his season.
The Gamecocks were within four points of tying the game in the final quarter until the Eagles returned an interception 77 yards for a touchdown.
The regular season had its peaks and its valleys, but the post season was special. The Gamecocks put JSU in the conversation of being a national championship contender again for the foreseeable future. Not only did JSU earn national respect, the OVC earned some much-needed credibility as a capable football conference. All of it came about because JSU lived up to Jenkins’ words.