Miami, South Carolina meet in Independence Bowl
SHREVEPORT - A three-game losing streak to end the regular season dashed Miami's hopes of a banner year. South Carolina was considered one of the nation's elite during the preseason, but struggled from the outset.
Now the two teams find themselves in Shreveport.
That certainly wasn't the preseason plan. But that's the reality and Miami running back Duke Johnson says there is still plenty to play for, especially in regards to building for the future, when the Gamecocks (6-6) and Hurricanes (6-6) meet on Saturday in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.
"One game can make a lot of difference," Johnson said. "It can start big things."
Miami is trying to bounce back from a disappointing end to the regular season. The Hurricanes had a late lead on No. 1 Florida State back on Nov. 15 before letting it slip away in a 30-26 loss. That was followed by losses to Virginia and Pittsburgh.
"It's not the kind of team we know we are, but it's the team we have been," Johnson said.
The 5-foot-9, 206-pound Johnson has had a breakout season for the Hurricanes. He has 1,520 yards rushing - which ranks 13th in the country - and 10 touchdowns this season while averaging seven yards per carry.
South Carolina suffered a surprising home loss to Texas A&M in the season opener and could never get completely back on track. The Gamecocks have especially struggled on defense, giving up more than 31 points per game.
Veteran South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is expecting a back-and-forth game against the Hurricanes. Spurrier has had just one losing season in 25 years of at the college level and that came during his first year - back in 1987 at Duke.
"We'll try to play the entire game and try to finish this thing out," Spurrier said. "So many games nowadays come down to that fourth quarter. Hopefully we'll have us a good fourth quarter if it comes down to that."
Things to know about the Gamecocks and Hurricanes going into the Independence Bowl:
CURTAIN CALL: South Carolina running back Mike Davis said earlier this week that Saturday's game would be his final appearance on a college field before becoming eligible for the NFL draft. The 5-foot-9, 223-pound junior has had a somewhat disappointing season, running for 927 yards after gaining 1,183 on the ground a year ago.
WHERE IS THE DEFENSE?: If South Carolina's woes can be traced back to one particular issue, it's a defense that has given up more than 31 points per game. Miami's defense has better overall statistics, but wasn't very good during its three-game losing streak to end the season, giving up at least 30 points in each loss.
SOGGY SATURDAY: The weather forecast for Saturday's game calls for plenty of rain. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said the Gamecocks haven't had to deal with rain much this season and that the coaching staff will try to make sure everyone is prepared: Said Spurrier: "You've got to cut off the correct foot. Don't cut off the wrong foot or you're going to fall on your fanny."
WHO WANTS TO BE HERE?: It's not a secret that Shreveport was not the destination of choice for South Carolina or Miami at the beginning of the season. But both Miami coach Al Golden and South Carolina's Spurrier expect their teams to be prepared on Saturday. "I can't speak for coach Spurrier or South Carolina, but for us, we came here with a mission. From our standpoint, these guys have done an incredible job of practicing and keeping everything in perspective."
POSTSEASON STREAKS: Miami is hoping to break a four-game bowl losing streak since its 2006 MPC Computers Bowl victory over Nevada. South Carolina is trying to win its fourth straight bowl game, which would be the longest postseason streak in school history. The Gamecocks have beaten Nebraska (Capital One Bowl), Michigan (Outback) and Wisconsin (Capital One) over the past three seasons.