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December 28, 2006
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Give me Liberty, or give me ? footballs flying through the air non-stop for a few hours.
This year's Liberty Bowl matchup figures to look something like the Holiday Bowl usually does. Conference USA champion Houston and South Carolina each can be expected to throw it 30-plus times. Why shouldn't they? Each team is ranked among the nation's top 25 in passing yards per game.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier believes his defense will have its hands full with a Cougars team that ranks sixth in the nation in total offense (439.8 yards per game) and 11th in scoring (32.8 points per game).
"They make a lot of yards and their quarterback, Kevin Kolb, is one of the best, another senior quarterback," Spurrier said. "Our defensive guys are really going to be challenged."
Kolb will be making his 50th consecutive start, tops among active Division I-A quarterbacks. He passed for more than 3,400 yards this season and had 27 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
"He can run and throw," Spurrier said. "He's a player that doesn't make a lot of mistakes. We have to get some pressure on him, turn our ends loose.
"They probably do a lot like Florida does, spread out and shotgun most the time."
At least the Gamecocks have a defensive coordinator who is familiar with Kolb and with Art Briles' scheme at Houston. South Carolina's Tyrone Nix was the defensive coordinator at Southern Miss when the Golden Eagles faced the Cougars in 2003-04. Southern Miss won both games.
"He has a better feel for us than someone who just stepped out of the car and onto the field," Briles said. "We have to execute and perform on the offensive side of the ball and we have to stop them on defense. We don't need to make something easy hard. If we take care of business and do what we are supposed to do, then there will be some people in red smiling."
Houston comes in carrying a six-game winning streak. But it's not the only hot team. South Carolina has won its past two, including an upset of rival Clemson in the regular-season finale. The Gamecocks also had Florida on the ropes in Gainesville, Fla., but they lost 17-16 when a field goal attempt was blocked as time ran expired.