What Does DCI Bowl Win Really Mean?

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Admit it, when you first heard the Gamecocks were going to the Independence Bowl, you sighed, maybe even rolled your eyes.  Where is Shreveport?  It’s HOW far from Columbia?  Why is there a bowl game there?  December 27? Ugh.  Then you heard it was the Duck Commander Independence Bowl and you just sort of said omg to yourself while shaking your head didn’t you?  You could not believe we were going to a bowl game sponsored by the Duck Dynasty guys, even if you do like the show.  The whole thing just seemed disappointing,

Then you heard we were playing Miami, excuse me, The U.  You were reminded of the last time we played them and they slammed Todd Ellis to the ground after the whistle.  Then you watched the two part ESPN 30 for 30 series on The U, and suddenly you started feeling a little stronger about this game.  There was news of decommits, Spurrier saying he’d only coach 2-3 more years, then suddenly it was 4 years again, and then a couple of recruits signed.  The game suddenly felt a little bigger, a little more important.  You realized Steve Spurrier had not had a losing season since his first year of coaching, and you didn’t want these Gamecocks to be that team.  By the time kickoff came yesterday, you still didn’t want to be there, but you were ready, this game mattered.

The Gamecocks struggled both offensively and defensively in the first quarter, and you could practically hear fans across Columbia groan.  But the team got on track in the second quarter and for much of the remainder of the game, showed poise and even flashes of greatness.  Dylan Thompson had another great game passing 22 of 34, which included three drops that Thompson hit the receiver almost perfectly, for over 280 yards.  Pharoh Cooper showed the nation how he is a superstar in the making, with not just 170 yards receiving, but big plays when it was needed.

More impressive though was the play of the defense.  Sure they still gave up plenty of yards, with star Duke Johnson gaining more than 150 total yards.  And their quarterback Brad Kaaya, did you know he was a true freshman?, had a solid game as well.  But they looked good for the most part.  Jonathan Walton had a huge game, with not only a great interception and a runback that looked like maybe it was the other 28 Mike Davis out there, dodging and hurdling guys along the way; but he also had some huge hits and seemed to be everywhere.  Skai Moore also finished the season strong, with more than 10 tackles, and making some solid tackles, especially when it was needed.  Kadetrix Marcus also started at safety for the first time all season, and looked good bringing a high level of energy that gave him seven tackles on the day.  Possibly the play of the game was Gerald Dixon stripping the ball out of Duke Johnson’s arms just before he hit the ground, and setting the Gamecocks up late in the game.  The defense made big plays when it needed to, made stops when it had to, and ultimately played hard until the last play, and that matters.

This game mattered.  The Gamecocks won their fourth consecutive bowl game, a streak that only Florida State has matched right now.  They finished with a winning record, albeit 7-6 was not what was hoped for, but it still matters.  The team beat Georgia, Florida, and Miami in the same season.  More than all of that, to a high school senior trying to decide where to go, they looked exciting.  This looked like a team you would want to be a part of.  And it also looked like a team that a big time player could step right in and make an impact early, which is one thing a lot of high school players look at in deciding where to go.  It mattered to the returning players, who finished the season with a satisfying win, which makes looking forward to next year even better.  It mattered to the coaches, who were able to see some players step up that they know they will need to rely on next year.  It mattered to the fans, who by the time the game started were pumped and ready to see the Gamecocks play The U.

This game did matter.  And the Gamecocks made the most of the opportunity.