South Carolina Outlasts Houston
by Mike Mitchell
South Carolina outlasted Houston 44-36 in an offensive shootout at the Liberty Bowl, giving the Gamecocks their first win in December since 1960 (1-9).
A 17-0 run in the second half allowed the Gamecocks to pull away from a 28-27 halftime deficit. After the lead changed hands seven times in the first half, South Carolina went on top for good on Ryan Succop's 45-yard field goal in an otherwise scoreless third quarter. Blake Mitchell threw a pair of 43-yard touchdown passes to Kenny McKinley in the 4th quarter to open a 44-28 lead.
The Cougars cut the gap to 44-36 with over 5:30 left to play on Jackie Battle's 3-yard run and subsequent 2-point conversion. Houston got the ball back in excellent field position moments later after Steve Spurrier inexplicably went for the first down on 4th-and-1 from his own 37-yard line. But the Gamecocks sacked Kevin Kolb for a 12-yard loss on 1st down and, after two incompletions, came up several yards short of converting a 4th-down completion into a first down.
Kolb threw three touchdown passes for Houston, two to Vincent Marshall who finished with 201 receiving yards on nine catches.
The two teams produced 1,039 yards of total offense with Houston holding a slight edge of 527 yards to 512.
Mitchell had four TD passes for South Carolina as Steve Spurrier evened his bowl record in Columbia at 1-1. The Gamecocks have won four of their last five bowl games after going winless in their first eight postseason trips.
Houston lost a bowl game for the seventh straight time. The Cougars' last bowl win was against Navy in the 1980 Garden State Bowl.