Keys To Victory Against Houston
I. Play Your Game
One reason the Gamecocks have had success down the stretch this season is because they have finally discovered their identity. Featuring a precision based and balanced offense, complemented by a bend but don't break defense, the Gamecocks have found their winning formula for success. If the Gamecocks can establish their tempo and get out to an early lead against the underdog Cougars, then that will bode well for USC's chances to win their first bowl game since the 2001 season. However, if the Gamecocks lose their composure and get into a shootout with the potent Houston offense, that will play right into Coach Art Briles' game plan.
II. Generate Pressure on Kolb
If there is one spark plug for the potent Houston offense, it is senior quarterback Kevin Kolb. The dual-threat Kolb is considered one of the top available signal callers in the upcoming NFL draft, and he has led the Cougars' shoot-and-run veer offense to unprecedented heights this season. For Carolina to have success on the defensive side of the ball, Eric Norwood, Casper Brinkley, and the rest of the Gamecock defense will have to generate pressure early and often in an attempt to keep the veteran Kolb out of his comfort zone.
III. Secondary Step Up
With Kolb headlining a dynamic passing attack, Houston features the #6 ranked offense in America. The Cougars have four wide receivers with at least 30 receptions on the year, and they are capable of busting the big play at any given time. Fred Bennett and the Gamecock secondary will have to play smart, assignment football against the Houston offense, which thrives off exploiting mismatches across the football field.
IV. Red Zone Offense
The Gamecocks ability (or sometimes inability) to score in the red zone has been a storyline throughout the season. After struggling mightily in scoring situations in early SEC contests against Georgia and Auburn, the Gamecocks have shown progress down the stretch. With improved offensive line play and a confident Blake Mitchell behind center, it will be essential for USC to make the most of their scoring opportunities against the high powered Cougars.
V. Play All Four Quarters
Gamecock fans don't need to be reminded of last year's meltdown in the second half of the Independence Bowl against Missouri. After jumping out to an early 21-0 lead, the Gamecocks suffered an epic collapse for the remainder of the game, as they watched quarterback Brad Smith lead the Tigers to a come from behind 38-31 win. As a result, this year's rallying cry for the young Gamecocks has been to "leave no doubt" and finish games at all costs. USC will need to do just that against a confident and capable Houston squad that is fresh off winning the Conference USA Championship.
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