Saturday, December 30, 2006

LIBERTY BOWL WRAP-UP

I don't want to write too much before the season review, but a few thoughts that have gone through my head since the Houston victory are appropriate.
First of all, a huge kudos to Cory Boyd. Playing with Lord knows how many pieces of medical equipment in his hand, he ran for 94 yards and two scores.
Man of steel. Literally.
Sidney Rice was humming. Kenny McKinley looked brilliant. And, somewhere during the game, you started to think, "You know, this Cock & Fire thing is starting to work."
Granted, it was a Conference USA opponent. But think of the brilliant play by Jordin Lindsey, a defensive lineman who looked up, saw a ball, and decided to catch it. Think of the lack of Blakecisions, though the Cougars certainly left an interception or two on the field.

And then think of this: All year, South Carolina has not gotten into a shootout. Yes, the Gamecocks rolled a couple teams. Yes, there were too many close games for anyone's heart. And yes, there were plenty of momentum twists and turns against Clemson.

But this was the first shootout, marching up and down the field, the first time USC had to win just by putting more points on the board than the other guy. And Blake, Sidney, Kenny, Cory and Mike Davis did it.

No, the defense wasn't perfect. But it was solid when it had to be. It was way too easy for the Cougars in the first half, but it got a lot harder in the second half, when the game was on the line.

Give Kolb and the rest of his team credit for a gutsy performance. No doubt about it; Houston was the real deal. Don't believe it? Here's a list of some of the teams who scored fewer points against South Carolina: Arkansas. Tennessee. Auburn. Florida. Clemson. And everyone else on USC's schedule. Some NFL team will get a steal if they take Kolb in the third or fourth round of the draft.

But this was the game USC needed to show that the talk of an SEC run next year isn't all the fantasy of the faithful. This game served notice: We can score. Try and stop us.

It will be incredibly difficult next year. There will be five legitimate contenders to the SEC East -- Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky. All have a reason to think it could happen. All have notable flaws. Does that play into the hands of the Big Three or the upstarts? I'm not sure.

But Friday was a celebration of everything that could go right. Enjoy it. Savor it.

And give yourself a moment to dream about what could be next.

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