Live Blogging the 2006 Liberty Bowl

This Thursday, we will see the first ever clash between South Carolina and Texas A&M in the sport of football. Two programs, both once-overshadowed by “big brother” programs and historic teams in their conferences, who now find themselves near the top of the heap, and sharing a conference to boot.

Prior to each game, I intend to look back at a previous matchup between teams. Not so much for scouting purposes but to reminisce on where the programs were at the time, who was on each team, and to sprinkle in a little fun here and there. Since these two haven't faced off yet, Houston seems close enough right?

Our game today is the 2006 AutoZone Liberty Bowl. As a Chicago native I’ve only been seriously following the Gamecocks since 2009, and I’m watching this game for the first time, so I’m not the biggest expert on the backgrounds of each and every player, but I think this gives me a nice, clean slate to work with. Alright, let’s get in the zone. AutoZone.

Pre-game Notes

- Art Briles, your 2006 Conference USA Coach of the Year! That deserves a cake AND a pizza party afterwards. Yes, you can pick out any toy you want at Toys-R-Us, too. No, not a video game. That stuff’ll rot your brain. Oh heck, I can’t say no to this face.

- Already two mentions of Andre Ware before kickoff. Also, both mentions included a reference to his high-top fade haircut back in the day.

- In Todd McShay’s recap of the game, he referred to South Carolina’s play as “classic Steve Spurrier football”.This is gonna be fun.

First Quarter

14:55: Ryan Succop boots it into the endzone, forcing a touchback. That’s the kind of talent that earns you Mr. Irrelevant in the NFL Draft. Or actually, gets you drafted at all.

Also, I don’t think this is Kevin Kolb:

14:07: Chris Hampton and Chris Hampton’s teeth make an appearance. 

“We’re gonna try to put on a great show today, make some big hits and a lot of plays. We hope you enjoy the game.” Thanks Chris, I will! Such a nice young man.

13:36: Pass is completed to Biren Ealy, who breaks away to the South Carolina 45. Afterwards we cut to—OH GOD WE’VE AWOKEN THE KOLB-BEAST!

[13:04: That’s not a neck protector on Syvelle Newton. It’s his hair.

Also Kevin Kolb EASILY tosses it to Vincent Marshall in the end zone, who is at least 10 yards away from any member of the Gamecock secondary. “It couldn’t get any easier for Houston than that!” You’re not wrong, annoying play-by-play man. You’re not wrong.

12:59: The late, great Kenny McKinley makes a heck of a return out to the Gamecock 40 yard-line, juking out a couple Cougars before getting tripped up. And now I’m bummed out.

12:24: Y’know, if you trim off his ears and hair, Andy Boyd’s head and neck make a perfect rectangle.

10:25: Mike Davis 1.0 rips off a huge run, and did it in pretty impressive fashion! Sorry, all I’ve ever heard about this Mike Davis is that he wasn't as good as the Mike Davis the Gamecocks have now. This makes me wonder if all that talk is just a ploy to make Mike Davis 2.0 not have to worry about living up to the original Mike Davis.

9:04: Here comes Head Ball Coach, with his signature “yeah I’m smiling but I hate you right now” face.

8:07: Ryan Succop misses his FIRST-EVER field goal from less than 45 yards. The Gamecocks are on national television, so of course at least one stupid thing that never happens, has to happen.

5:52: Apparently the Liberty Bowl takes place in Memphis, which of course means we get a quick piece on the Gamecocks visiting Graceland. They all seemed to have a nice time. Hey there, Scotty Spurrier, what piece of Elvis memorabilia are you checking out?

Oh.

2:09: Cory Boyd runs to the outside for the touchdown! I know I mentioned Mike Davis’ running earlier in the quarter, but both he and Boyd have been really great so far. Even when they get stuffed, they manage to stretch their bodies and arms, even crawl to get at least a yard or two. Both of them, when they enter open field, are remarkably fast as well.

Second Quarter

14:96: We get a shot of the commentary team for the game, also known as the implements used to torture me during this game. 

I knew Craig James was annoying (he ran for Congress in Texas after all) but I’m disappointed in you, Doug. I thought you were better than that.

13:25: Chunky bro Kevin Kolb is interviewed, and discusses the transition between high school and college, and the differences in playbooks and style. Also, he totally grew out that soul patch to impress Melissa when he asks her out to the Dave Matthews Band concert. A little bay-bay!

13:11: As karmic retribution for that soul patch, Kolb is immediately picked off after the interview by Jordin Lindsey. Not chill, brah. Hella not chill.

12:45: FINALLY we get a big play from Sidney Rice, and it’s a 53-yard gain. It’s so obvious that he’ll be a major player in the NFL, albeit with an abbreviated career. He has an excellent body here, is so quick for a guy his height, and easily maneuvers around the Cougars secondary. 

10:47: A smooth, gentle toss from Blake Mitchell to Robert Pavlovic for the touchdown! Pavlovic’s final stat line: One catch for one yard for one touchdown. Good for you Robert.

And Succop missed the extra point. Alrighty then.

6:12: Kolb throws for another TD, and THEIR kicker made the extra point. Hm, Ryan? Did you see that, young man? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Also, country superstar Leann Rimes is at the game to perform during halftime. She says she’s a big fan of the Texas Longhorns, who were 10-3 that year, which apparently isn’t good. Is winning only ten games not a good thing? Oh right, it’s Texas, where FOOTBALL legally has to be spelled in all-caps, because it’s TEXAS and we play FOOTBALL in TEXAS because TEXAS WOOO FOOTBALL. 

She’s also a big Tennessee Titans fan, and is happy Vince Young plays for the team. Poor Leann. She really has no idea about what’s to come with Vince, does she? Let her down easy, fellas.

3:35: Of course while the Gamecocks were shown going to Graceland, the Houston Cougars are shown visiting sick children at a St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I’m calling bias on this one.

Also will somebody remind Jackie Battle to not eat the children? Something about that smile is so damn unnerving. The kid knows what I’m talking about. That is not a face of excitement, but of fear.

2:56: Hey, do you see Sidney Rice in this picture?

No? Well that’s because Sidney Rice just made an unreal touchdown catch at the very edge of the corner in the end zone. That is why.

2:10: Known child-eater Jackie Battle gets past the line of scrimmage and runs 47 yards for the touchdown. There were no safeties to be seen. None. As in NOT ONE.

:42: Cory Boyd bobs and weaves through defenders for a touchdown. With only forty-two seconds left in the half, surely the Gamecocks will go into the half with the lead. Surely.

:11: Aaaaaaaaan Vincent Marshall catches a pass from Kolb and runs it 50 yards for the touchdown. Guess he didn’t like me calling him Shirley.

Seriously, has anybody seen South Carolina’s safeties? I put out their food dish, but they still haven’t shown up on the field. I’m getting a little worried here. I know they’re “outdoor” safeties, but still.

As Steve Spurrier and the boys run into the tunnel for halftime, Spurrier is asked how he plans to stop the “quick-strike” offense of Houston. Then, he gives the little man who asked him that question this look:

And replied, “Obviously not what we’re doing, so far.”

Third Quarter

10:50: Nice shirt, pointdexter!

Yeah, the “t-shirt over dress shirt” look is always a smash hit with the babes. And also cowboys, apparently.

10:45: Doug Flutie begins openly rooting for the Houston defense. “They’ll make some big plays. They just gotta keep at it, and they’ll be able to make stops.” Thanks, Doug. Great analysis.

9:59: Ryan Succop makes the field goal, then gives the “big ups” to God. Guess the man upstairs doesn’t play in the first half, just like Adam Sandler in the remake of The Longest Yard.

5:39: At this point, Houston has the ball, and it’s 4th and Goal… at the 50-yard line. How did we get here? It all happens in three easy steps!

-It’s 3rd and Goal at USC’s 8-yard line. The snap goes blazing by Kolb all the way to the 30.
-Kolb tries to pick it up but bumbles it four more yards, before he decides to kick it out of bounds at the 35.
-This results in a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the ball. And here we are.

Suffice it to say, they did not convert. Let’s skip to the fourth, this quarter’s been a snoozefest.

Fourth Quarter

12:14: Mitchell throws a gorgeous pass to Kenny McKinley who just jogs it in for the touchdown. That was smooth as butter, and it wasn’t even the best pass or catch of the night by a USC player. Really a fantastic offensive display we’re seeing here. Todd McShay was right!

11:37: ESPN shows off a picture from what appears to be Kevin Kolb’s RAZR flip-phone of him and a 12-point buck he killed. According to Craig James, he’s very proud of it.

10:19: Out-of-context Doug Flutie on a stamp!

7:39: Hey, remember that Mitchell-to-McKinley pass for 43-yards earlier in the quarter? THEY DONE DID IT AGAIN! No literally, they hooked up for exactly 43 yards, again.

5:42: Jackie Battle runs for another touchdown, and Houston converts the two-point conversion. Can they make a comeback? ARE THEY DESTINED TO BE THE AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL CHAMPIONS?!

0:00: No, no they are not. It was Steve Spurrier’s first bowl win with USC, and his first since 2002. He came a long way, baby.