5 Thoughts On The Independence Bowl

5 Thoughts and what's next for the Independence Bowl

Dec. 27 Duck Commander Independence Bowl
South Carolina 24, Miami 21

And You Care Because … In a fight of a game, Pharoh Cooper came up with a big performance highlighted by a 78-yard touchdown catch to help South Carolina get up 17-6 in the first half, but it wouldn’t be easy the rest of the way. Miami settled for two Michael Badgley field goals early on, and went on two long scoring marches in the second half with Gus Edwards running for a three-yard score and Phillip Dorsett closing out a 72-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown catch with just over two minutes to play to close within three – that was as close as the Hurricanes would get. The game turned in the fourth on a huge hit on Miami’s Duke Johnson, who lost a fumble while getting hurt. Three plays later, Dylan Thompson ran for a two-yard score for a ten-point lead with just over four minutes left.
What Else? South Carolina WR Pharoh Cooper caught nine passes for 170 yards and a score
- Miami RB Duke Johnson ran 24 times for 132 yards and caught five passes for 51 yards
- South Carolina QB Dylan Thompson completed 22-of-34 passes for 284 yards and two scores, and ran for a touchdown
- Total yards: Miami 422 – South Carolina 362
Game Rating: B

By Pete Fiutak
1. South Carolina was just tougher. Miami played well early but had to settle for field goals, and it had several chances to take the game over in the second half, but South Carolina pounded on both sides of the ball. The running game might have been sluggish, and the defense gave up 422 yards, but when the Gamecocks needed a stop, and the offense needed a play, they got it. The might not want to rely on big plays from Pharoh Cooper to save the day, and the defense might not have gotten off the field on Miami’s late scoring drive, but again, the team was tougher considering it lost several games this year in fourth quarter collapses. This could’ve easily have been another, and the narrative could’ve been about how Steve Spurrier’s team kept faltering, but this was a hard-hitting, challenging game in several ways, and South Carolina got it done.

By Rich Cirminiello
2. It’s Year 4 of the Al Golden experiment in South Florida. And it’s way too late in this rebuilding process to be finishing a season below the .500 mark.

After dropping a close game to South Carolina in the Independence Bowl, Miami will carry a four-game losing streak into the offseason as if it’s dead weight. The Canes peaked in early November, but never recovered from a 30-26 loss to rival Florida State that kicked off the slide that eventually resulted in the program’s first losing season since 2007.

Golden, now just 24-22 versus FBS opponents, is out of excuses. The NCAA investigation is behind Miami. The staff has had four recruiting classes to build depth and talent. And QB Brad Kaaya is no longer a true freshman. If the Hurricanes fail to ramp up in 2015, as in win a mediocre ACC Coastal Division, the program might have no choice but to move in a different direction. The fans at Sun Life Stadium, at least those who decide to actually show up at home games, deserve better.

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3. At least South Carolina can now wash the bad taste out of its mouth from this season with bowl win, but have we seen the best that the South Carolina program can be under Steve Spurrier? For all of the accolades and all of the history with turning the Florida Gators into a destination job, he’s been unable to do the same for the Gamecocks. Winning a bowl is great, but South Carolina should be playing in bowls not affiliated with Duck Dynasty. You have to wonder how much longer before the ‘Ole Ball Coach” decides to work on his golf game in earnest.

And why can’t Miami be a beast again? Sure there’s young talent and promise and all of that, blah, blah, blah, but this is the freakin’ U. The program sits in arguably the most fertile recruiting ground in the country, has all that south Florida has to offer, and can boast about multiple national championships. Things in Coral Gables should not have to be hopeful of a bright future because of developing talent. It should be good every year and reload with the Alabamas, Oregons, and Ohio States. It’s time for Al Golden to dive into the elite waters beginning next year.

4. What’s next for South Carolina
Can the Ball Coach come up with a little more magic after a wildly disappointing year? Step One will be to settle on a quarterback as soon as possible between Connor Mitch and Perry Orth – or another young option – and then the offseason will be about rebuilding the left side of the offensive line. The skill players should be there with Pharoh Cooper and most of the key receivers returning, and Brandon Wilds ready to take on a bigger role for the running game with Mike Davis leaving early for the NFL.

Six of the top seven tacklers are back to a defense that should be far more dangerous and far more aggressive. The linebacking corps has the potential to be a killer, while the anemic pass rush has to hope for more from Gerald Dixon and linebackers T.J. Holloman and Larenz Bryant. The young secondary loses SS Brison Williams, but three starters are back. P Tyler Hull is done after a decent year, but PK Elliott Fry is back after doing a great job.

5. What’s next for Miami
After collapsing over the second half of the season, the team needs to come up with something special despite the loss of WR Phillip Dorsett and the almost-certain early departure of RB Duke Johnson. Brad Kaaya did enough to establish himself as the starting quarterback, but even though he’s likely going to be the main man, he’ll be challenged. Phillip Dorsett and TE Clive Walford – the team’s top two targets – are gone, but there’s plenty of speed and athleticism coming back. With tackles Ereck Flowers and Trevor Darling back, the building blocks are there up front.

The D loses heart-and-soul linebacker Denzel Perryman along with running mate Thurston Armbrister from the linebacking corps, and two starters are gone up front. Three of the top four tacklers are gone, but there’s enough depth and enough options to be okay overall – it might just take a little tweaking. P Justin Vogel is a good one – he’s back along with PK Michael Badgley who came up with a great first season.


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