Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Interesting Day in Columbia, South Carolina


Coach Steve Spurrier explains why he is upset with writer Ron Morris.

    There’s never a dull moment when you have Steve Spurrier at the helm. What started off as an ordinary Tuesday has turned into one of the more interesting and controversial days for South Carolina football in recent history.

    The controversy began at Coach Spurrier’s weekly press conference when he refused to field questions in the same room as State reporter Ron Morris. Morris rubbed Spurrier wrong when he wrote an article last spring claiming the coach “poached” point guard Bruce Ellington from the basketball team (something Spurrier adamantly denies). With this as the foundation, and a recent article belittling last Saturday’s 54-3 claiming ‘It was just Kentucky’ fresh on his mind, Spurrier took a stand. He called out Morris (though not directly by name) and made it known that while he has no problem taking criticism, he isn’t going to let fabricated stories about himself or his team be published. He went to private rooms with TV personnel and other writers so as to exclude Morris from today’s press conference.

    But why now? What’s with the timing? Why didn’t he do this at the beginning of the season? At this point in time it was speculated by some internet voices that this was specifically timed so as to keep the pressure off of the team. If the media is all caught up in this headline all week it would give his young team a chance to focus on an important road game without the press on their backs. Clever Spurrier.

   But then comes the two o’clock hour.

   Fifth-year senior quarterback Stephen Garcia dismissed from team.

   At the time of writing this, Athletic Director Eric Hyman has yet to hold his press conference explaining the dismissal, but reports are that Garcia failed a random alcohol test administered to him last week. As part of his reinstatement on the team earlier this fall, it was understood that he would have to follow certain guidelines laid down by President Harris Pastides, AD Hyman, and coach Spurrier—some of them no doubt dealing with alcohol. I’m sure we will find out more later on the specifics of the dismissal, but one thing we do know for sure: Stephen Garcia is no longer a part of the South Carolina football team.

    At first glance it may appear that these two events are somewhat unrelated, but look a little deeper and you may find some connection. As a good friend of mine pointed out, Spurrier knew what was coming and maybe he wanted to deflect the possibility of having to field questions about Garcia. Or could it have been that he was trying to take some of the attention off of the news about to break and put it on himself? I would tend to say that this was a very calculated move on the part of the Ol’ Ball Coach. Now what exactly his motives are remains to be seen. Conspiracy theories enter here.

There is so much to dissect here, and the next few days will be full of more reports and speculation, but right now it just all feels a little strange. Something isn’t right in Columbia. What is supposed to be one of the biggest seasons in Carolina football history is experiencing a little bit of controversy. How will the team react this Saturday? Will the team be completely behind starting quarterback Connor Shaw, or is a piece of them still with locker room favorite Stephen Garcia?

    It’s hard to say at this point in time what sort of effect this Tuesday’s news will have on the field, but one thing is for sure: Saturday in Starkville just got a lot more interesting.

Monday, September 19, 2011

College Football Weekend Quick Hits


USC goes to 3-0 with a 24-21 victory over Navy. Running Back Marcus Lattimore rushed for a career high 246 yards and three touchdowns.

       This past weekend in College Football definitely did not disappoint with a wide array of things happening on and off the field. Here are a few quick stories that caught my eye.

 Calm Down Dabo Swinney

    Okay, you did what no other team could do over the past 17 games and beat the defending National Champions. Congratulations. But it’ll happen at least three more times this year. This Auburn team is nowhere near the caliber of talent they were last year, so to act like you won the BCS National Championship after you defeat the number 21 team in the country at home….it’s a little childish. I think everyone who watched Swinney’s postgame interview and antics felt a little uncomfortable. Act like you’ve been there before, act like you expect to win. For anyone who missed it, here is a portion of Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s postgame reaction.

The Triple Option is Scary

    As any fan of a team who has faced a triple option offense knows, it’s a chore to defend against. Originally an offense reserved for the Academies and non-BCS schools, the triple option is making its presence felt in the BCS. When Paul Johnson brought his offense with him to Georgia Tech three seasons ago, many felt it wouldn’t work. What did he do? Win an ACC championship in his second season in Atlanta. Once again he has the Yellow Jackets clicking on all cylinders.

    Through three games (against sub-par football programs I will say), Tech is averaging an NCAA leading 427 rushing yards a game, as well as an NCAA leading 59 points a game. Three straight games Tech’s first snap from scrimmage has gone for six points.  Through three games Johnson’s offense is averaging another NCAA best, 10.2 yards per play. That’s an average of a first down per play. Impressive, I don’t care who those numbers are against.

    That also brings me to South Carolina’s game against Navy this past Saturday. If that didn’t scare Gamecock fans then I don’t know what will. The option offense just chews up the clock, making every offensive possession for the opposing team a must score. South Carolina’s own lethal rushing attack was the difference in this one. The good news for Carolina fans: you won’t have to see that offense for the rest of the season. Fans should be happy with the win, no matter how ugly it might have looked.

The ACC is Making Moves

    With all this conference realignment talk it appeared that the ACC might be in jeopardy of being swept under the rug, that was until this weekend. The ACC has announced that it will add Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the conference, making the league 14 teams deep. As far as football goes, this is not a major increase in talent—but rather it is a proactive statement. This move tells the college football world that the ACC has no intentions of splitting up or becoming forgotten and irrelevant. With 14 teams, and talks of possibly going to 16, the ACC is poising itself to become one of the “Super Conferences” of the future. College Football as we know it is changing.

    The way I see it, in five years the BCS will move from eleven conferences to four “Super Conferences.”  Very shortly we will see schools hastily searching for a spot in the SEC, ACC, Pac 12, or Big 10. Everyone else will be left out to dry. Tradition in college football will be destroyed for the most part. The only possible good I see coming out of this is that it will kill the BCS. Bye bye BCS, hello playoff. The conference championship games will give the winning team a birth in a four team playoff for the National Title.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Five Things We’ve Learned About The Gamecocks

South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney sacks Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray during second-quarter action in Athens, Ga. on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011. (Photo by Travis Bell/Sideline Carolina)            South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore breaks away from Georgia's Sanders Commings during late, fourth-quarter action in Athens, Ga. on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011. (Photo by Travis Bell/Sideline Carolina)

1) Marcus Lattimore shows no signs of a sophomore slump.

So much for the sophomore slump. Running Back Marcus Lattimore has proven that last year’s stellar performance was not the peak, but merely the beginning of a great college career. Offseason reports for Heisman candidate were nothing but positive. Coaches said he bulked up, gaining as much as 12 pounds of muscle, as well as improving his knowledge and understanding of the game. It shows.

Against East Carolina, Lattimore tied a career high with three rushing touchdowns, while compiling 112 yards on 23 carries. To follow that up he grinded out 176 yards at 6.5 yards per carry against UGA, including a vital go-ahead touchdown with 3:28 left in the 4th quarter.

The most impressive thing thus far about Lattimore is his vision. Gamecock fans have grown used to his tackle-breaking abilities, but they better start getting acquainted with his vision at the line. Countless times against UGA Lattimore took what would have been a minimal gain between the tackles and bounced it outside for a 10-15 yard gain. The 79 yard go-ahead drive at the end of the game featured multiple of these runs.

If there was any doubt going into the season that Lattimore would be able to replicate his numbers from last year, doubt-be-gone. In fact, fans should start expecting him to break last season’s records if he keeps running the ball the way he his. Nothing should be out of reach for this young man, not even that piece of bronze hardware given out in December.

2) Stephen Garcia is the quarterback, period.

All offseason the conversation revolving around South Carolina Football was centered on Stephen Garcia and his place on the team. Anytime South Carolina was mentioned by national or local media it seemed Stephen Garcia’s off-field troubles overshadowed positives like Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Lattimore, All-American wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, and star recruit Jadeveon Clowney.

The drama only intensified when 48 hours before the season kicked off head coach Steve Spurrier announced the 5th year senior would sit the first quarter behind unproven sophomore Connor Shaw. Spurrier backed up his decision by saying Shaw performed better in practice, something everyone (even Garcia himself) agreed with. Give credit to Spurrier for being a man of his word, as he publicly stated all offseason that the quarterback position would go to the man who performed best in practice, but the decision was very questionable.

The problem is that practice and game time are two completely different things. We quickly found this out after one quarter of football in Charlotte, against a subpar defense at best. The rest could be Gamecock history. Stephen Garcia enters in the second quarter with his team trailing 17-0, puts together a fierce drive in which he both barrels over a linebacker for a first down, and takes another run 32 yards for the Gamecocks first score of the season. South Carolina wouldn’t look back on its way to a 56-37 opening victory.

The second game of the season didn’t start well either, but Garcia proved once again he can win on the road in the SEC. He may not have looked pretty doing it (not much looked pretty in this win for the Gamecocks), but the point is that he got the job done. He did what was necessary to win. South Carolina has other playmakers, they don’t need Garcia to be the savior, they need him to do what it takes to win big games—and right now number 5 is doing just that.

Through seven quarters of play Garcia is 18-40 for 252 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT. He has also rushed for 3 TD.

3) The defense has three very capable defensive ends.

The combination of Devin Taylor, Melvin Ingram, and Jadeveon Clowney is the best threesome of defensive ends in the country, bar none.

Just how deep is the DE position? Melvin Ingram didn’t even get the start versus UGA and he still finished with 2 TD’s. Clowney, a true freshman in his first SEC road game, recorded two sacks and a forced fumble. And then there’s All-SEC Devin Taylor.

These boys can play, and they have only just begun making opposing quarterbacks miserable.

4) Special teams are no longer a weakness.

It looks as if the days of South Carolina finishing at the back of the pack in the SEC for special teams may be over. The hiring of new Special Teams Coordinator John Butler is turning out to be a genius move. It also doesn’t hurt that high school standout Bruce Ellington decided to play football again.

For the first time in a while South Carolina has legitimate threats in the punt and kickoff return game. Both Ellington and sophomore Ace Sanders have shown an ability to make some good runs. Sanders took a punt return for 68 yards to pay-dirt, recording the first punt return for a touchdown for South Carolina since 2001, in the opening game against ECU. Ellington has proven to have some very shifty moves himself, almost breaking free on multiple occasions. In fact ECU began kicking the ball away from Ellington. When’s the last time an opposing team kicked away from a Gamecock return man?

It’s been a while.

It also appears that the Gamecocks have found a place kicker. In his first attempt in a Gamecock uniform, Jay Wooten nailed a 49 yard field goal against UGA. Granted it’s the only field goal of the year, but it was quite an impressive kick. Title caliber teams most always posses a lethal field goal threat, so it’ll be interesting to see how Wooten pans out over the next few weeks.

5) The zone read needs work.

Plain and simple. The zone read between Garcia and Lattimore is not working. Either the play needs a lot of work, or it needs to see a lot less time in future game plans. It seems that the zone read is called 10-15 times a game, and its results are minimal at best. The reads are horrible. Lattimore will take the ball and get smashed up the middle, or Garcia will hang on to it and meet a linebacker around the end. When a zone read works, it’s beautiful, but this one ain’t working. Scrap it. Run it 5 times a game, not 15. When you’ve got a weapon like Lattimore just let him lineup in the I-formation and pound the ball. In fact I’d like to see a lot more sweeps, they—unlike the zone read—have actually shown some positive gain.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Inevitable Conference Expansion Will Dilute Elite SEC


     Rumors over the past few days have hinted that multiple schools are looking to leave their affiliated conferences for the SEC, and I doubt there is a thing anyone can do to stop it. More schools means more cash flow—and that’s something the SEC and it’s board will have a hard time turning down, even if it means diluting the talent level of college football’s greatest conference.

    It’s not hard to see where the future of college football is going—super conferences. Both the Big Ten and new Pac 12 will don new conference alignments this fall, and that will only be the beginning. Like it or not, BSC football will come down to three, maybe four, conferences in the coming years.

    As early as this weekend we could start to see conferences such as the SEC migrate toward a 16 team alignment. Once it starts it’s going to be an avalanche effect. Last summer saw the first dominoes fall with Nebraska moving to the Big Ten, Colorado and Utah joining and forming the new Pac 12, an TCU heading to the Big East. Now that Texas has angered the rest of the remaining Big 12 schools with their new Longhorn Network which gives the school $15 million a year, schools such as Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State are aggressively looking to jump ship.

    Texas A&M is apparently the most progressive school at the moment, and rumors have it that a vote by the SEC could happen as early as this afternoon as to whether the Aggies will join. If A&M joins then it’s guaranteed that at least one other school will, in order to even out the divisions.  Oklahoma or Clemson would make the most sense. Oklahoma because they are a historical powerhouse and purely for image sake would need out after being abandoned by the Aggies. Clemson would make sense because of geography.

    If it doesn’t happen within the coming weeks, conference realignment will inevitably happen in the coming years, which begs the question: Is the dominance of the SEC coming to a close?

    Adding more schools for the sake of money is a fine line to walk with longtime SEC fans. Tradition will be jeopardized, as well as quality. Oklahoma is one thing—they recruit at a high level and will only increase their talent level with a jump to the SEC—and Texas A&M could be competitive at times. But rumored schools such as Clemson, Oklahoma State, and Missouri I fear would not be as competitive in their moves.

    Clemson in particular has only proven to be semi-competitive in the mediocre ACC over the past 20 years. Their last conference title came in 1991—in a league that has only had two national championships since then (both courtesy of Florida State). In that time the SEC has had 9 national championships from 5 different teams. Over the past 10 years Clemson has average 5 losses a season. Bear in mind that is the comparatively weak ACC. A conservative assumption would have to project an average of at least 6 losses a year with a jump to the SEC, and realistically more like a 7 or 8 loss average.

    Oklahoma State is another school that has an average of 5 losses over the past decade, including two 7 loss seasons. That is in a conference that has seen zero National Championships over that time period.

    I understand why both the schools and the SEC would make the move—it makes financial sense. But to the fan, to the tradition of the game, these moves are not welcomed. Schedules will be altered, traditional rivalries will be done away with, talent levels will be diluted, conferences will become top heavy, bottom dwelling schools will find it nearly impossibly to climb the ranks, the college football landscape will begin to seem claustrophobic.

    Schools like Clemson, Oklahoma State, and Missouri will drown in the ultra-competitive SEC. School presidents know this, yet they will let it happen, because when it comes down to it (even though they won’t tell you this) it’s all about money. Nothing is about the love of the game anymore. College Football is a business, and any financial advisor would tell you a jump to the SEC is profit gained.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lattimore for Heisman Campaign Begins

    If yesterday’s preseason Coaches Poll rankings are any indication of the talent and potential of the #12 South Carolina Gamecocks, then plenty of awards will be heading Columbia, South Carolina’s way. Among them could be the biggest of them all: the Heisman Trophy.

    RB Marcus Lattimore is on everyone’s shortlist for preseason Heisman candidates, and after a sensational freshman season like he had last year, quite frankly he should be.

Marcus Lattimore, RB, #21, Freshman Statistics

Rushing                                        Receiving

249 Attempts                                29 Receptions

1197 Yards                                   412 Yards

17 Touchdowns                             2 Touchdowns

    The following is an unofficial video for the 2011 Marcus Lattimore Heisman Campaign. The University of South Carolina has yet to unveil an official campaign, and there are no mentions of one being marketed this season.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Braves Trade for Bourn: Smartest Move in East


    It's been a rather busy few days in Major League Baseball with the trade deadline coming and going at noon today. Teams selling, teams buying, veterans, all stars, prospects jumping clubs. The National League East has been particularly noisy over the past five days with the Mets, Phillies, and Braves all making significant moves. The Mets trading away a big time talent, with the latter two teams bolstering their lineup with proven commodities in the outfield.

    I blogged earlier last week about the importance of Beltran, and how he could end up deciding the NL East race between Atlanta and Philadelphia—but a couple days later the Giants were the team that acquired the veteran right fielder from the Mets. So while Beltran will no longer be the deciding factor in the East (he could very well end up being an integral part to a Giants run at a second straight World Series title though), there is a chance that one of two former Houston Astros—Hunter Pence or Michael Bourn—could be the bat to lift either the Phillies or Braves.

    Let’s take a look at the trade details:

Philadelphia and Houston

Philadelphia receives: RF Hunter Pence and Cash

Houston receives: 1B Jonathan Singleton, RHP Jarred Cosart, RHP Josh Zeid, and a player to be named.

Atlanta and Houston

Atlanta receives: CF Michael Bourn

Houston receives: CF Jordan Schafer, RHP Juan Abreu, RHP Paul Clemens, and LHP Brett Oberholtzer

    Both Pence and Bourn make much more since for these two clubs than does Beltran. Beltran is solely a rental player – and many of his detractors say that, save one October, he is nothing more than an above average player. Pence and Bourn are locked down for more than just a season, meaning these trades are not just three month gambles.

   The Phillies may have gotten a gotten a better player than the Braves, key word ‘may’, but they did it at a very big cost. Phillies fans will tell you it was worth giving up two of the franchises top prospects (and by top I mean very top prospects), but I suppose time will tell. It seems a little expensive to me, but I’m not the General Manager of the Phillies. Pence is definitely an elite player though. I would love to see him roaming centerfield at Turner Field, but I also would not have agreed to parting with two of our top prospects.

    Bourn makes absolutely perfect sense for the Braves. In my own opinion, there could not have been a more perfect trade for Atlanta. If rumors are an tell of reality, the Braves looked into making a move for no less than six different outfielders, among them Beltran, Pence, BJ Upton, and obviously Bourn. Take a quick look at these four and Bourn is the best fit for Atlanta. Beltran, as mentioned before, is a rental, Pence would have cost big time prospects GM Frank Wren was not willing to part with, and Upton does not have the type of on-base-percentage the Atlanta leadoff spot needs.

    If you could list the attributes of the type of player the Braves need they would be as follows: true leadoff hitter, high OBP, base stealer, center fielder. Bourn has each and every one of these qualities. In addition he is under contract through 2013, meaning the Braves now have a center fielder for the next couple years, as all signs point to Nate McClouth being on his way out.

    Bourn leads all of Major League Baseball with 39 stolen bases, while hitting at a .303 clip with a .363 OBP. He has 16 more hits than any other Brave and also boasts two Gold Gloves in center field. The kid is one of the best center fielders in the game. He gives the Braves a true leadoff hitter, something Atlanta hasn’t had since Rafael Furcal or Kenny Lofton. He gets on base consistently. Consistently. Imagine what that will do for the middle of the lineup. All of the sudden a healthy Atlanta lineup is starting to look dangerous. Bourn, Prado, Chipper, McCann, Uggla, Freeman, Heyward, Gonzales. Bourn is a pitchers worst nightmare. He gets on base and that’s only half the trouble. His base stealing threat messes with a pitcher. He can’t concentrate on the hitter and he’s forced to throw more fastballs.

    There is no doubt that this Atlanta lineup has talent, we’ve seen glimpses of it this year. But it’s possible that it needs just one more spark to ignite it. I believe Bourn is that spark and more.

    All in all, Wren made a very shrewd move. He took a page out of the John Schuerholz philosophy book: being patient and not giving away top farm talent. Wren has said since the trade for Bourn that he could have acquired Beltran or Pence if he had truly wanted to. Instead he realized that teams trading big time players before the deadline often make fools of their buyers. Many teams get so anxious and feel as if they need a player so bad that they’ll sell the farm just to get him. Wren played his cards perfectly. He shopped around, got the prices, and then waited. He waited until 3 hours before the deadline, and instead of having his back against the wall, he found the Astros with their backs to the wall. Wren showed Houston that if he didn’t get the deal he preferred he was perfectly willing to stay put. Houston was not willing to stay put.

    The Braves got what they needed. As far as this season goes, I’m going to be honest, I’d rather be in the Phillies shoes. If we look solely at the players these two teams received, Pence is the better player, plain and simple. But the Braves were not willing to overpay. They also were not just looking for the best player available, they were searching for the best fit.

     I think they’ve found it.

Gamecocks Pick up Four-Star LB from Garden State

  Kaiwan Lewis

    On Friday the South Carolina Gamecocks picked up their 18th verbal commitment for the class of 2012 in four-star linebacker Kaiwan Lewis. The New Jersey native chose the Gamecocks over 18 other offers including Auburn, Florida, Florida State, and Tennessee.

    Rivals lists Lewis at 6’2, 227lbs. He is ranked the number 8 player in the state of New Jersey, and the 28th best overall linebacker in the country. Lewis is the seventh four-star commit for the Gamecock’s class of 2012, but the first four-star on the defensive side of the ball.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Four-Star Lineman from GA Chooses Gamecocks

    Joe Harris

    The South Carolina Gamecocks have landed their 17th commitment for the class of 2012, and it’s a good one. Four-Star, offensive lineman Joe Harris from Lithonia, Georgia gave the Gamecocks his verbal on Wednesday night at the Dekalb County Media day.

    Harris chose the Gamecocks over many offers, including Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, and NC State. He’s ranked as the 32nd best lineman in the country for the class of 2012, as well as the 16th best overall recruit in the state of Georgia. Harris marks the 17th commit for the Gamecocks, and the 7th from the state of Georgia.

    Shortly after the 6-foot-4, 300 pound Harris announced his intentions of signing with South Carolina, he told Gamecockcentral.com, “It was between South Carolina and Alabama […] It was a real hard choice.” Harris mentioned that being able to play with talented players already on the roster such as RB Marcus Lattimore and incoming freshman DE Jadeveon Clowney had an impact on his decision.

    Harris is the fifth offensive line commitment for South Carolina’s class of 2012.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Braves and Falcons Prepare for Crazy Week

    Tyson Clabo        Rays White Sox Baseball 

     Get ready for one crazy week in sports. With the NFL back in operation and the MLB trade deadline closing in, the love of every sports fan, rumors, will be swirling so loud you won’t be able to hear yourself think.

   The trade talks in Atlanta have already been circulating for the better part of 10 days with fans, talk show hosts, and so called “experts” speculating that the Braves General Manager, Frank Wren, is looking to add a big bat to the lineup. Reports are that the biggest target is Met’s OF Carlos Beltran, a proven clutch hitter in the playoffs, while Tampa Bay OF B.J. Upton is also being intently pursued.

     The trade deadline is less than a week away, and that means trade rumors will only continue to build from here. Word has it that Beltran, who has the ability in his contact to veto any trade, is only willing to go to another National League team. Reports have also come out that talks between the Mets and Braves have slowed down in the past 24 hours, citing that the Braves aren’t willing to give up the prospects the Mets want. If that is the case, one would have to think that B.J. Upton would be the logical second choice for Wren. Two bonuses to Upton: he has one more year on his contract (which means the Braves would have a center fielder for next year), and he is a true center fielder. Beltran, while he has dabbled in center field, doesn’t truly feel home at the position. He is more of a corner out field type of guy.

    While MLB trade talks are running rampant, NFL free agency is almost open. With training camps only days away, you have to believe players and franchises will be looking to reach deals very soon. On the Atlanta home front, the Falcons most important goal right now has to be to keep the powerful right tackle Tyson Clabo from signing with another team. With so much of this teams success dependent on the run game, and the likelihood that the Falcons could lose two other offensive linemen, it is vital to keep a proven commodity like Clabo in the Georgia Dome.

    It’s going to be a crazy week all over the sports landscape of America, and in Atlanta it will be no different.

    Stay tuned for all the mayhem.

    Here’s to Frank Wren working some magic.

    Here’s to Arthur Blank throwing a lot of money at Tyson Clabo.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Uggla’s PH Home Run Gives Braves Victory


   When Dan Uggla came in to pinch hit with two outs in the top of the 9th inning, it looked as if his 12 game hit streak would be hard to keep rolling. Instead Uggla sent a 3-2 pitch to deep right center to give the Braves a 6-4 lead. Uggla’s homer was the fourth on the night for the suddenly powerful Braves lineup. Jason Heyward and Brian McCann went back to back in the top of the fourth, and Martin Prado tied the game at 4 runs a piece in the top of the seventh.

    Despite giving up 4 earned runs, starter Jair Jurrjen’s pitched very well. He only gave up 4 hits in 6 innings, while striking out 9. The problem was that three of the four hits he allowed were longballs. Jurrjens’ came out after the 6th inning in which he gave up back to back home runs. Jonny Venters was credited with his fifth win of the season after pitching a scoreless 8th inning. Craig Kimbrel came on in the top of the ninth to record the new franchise rookie record for saves in a season with his 31st save.