TAMPA, Fla. — If Friday nights bowling competition served as any indication, next weeks Outback Bowl between South Carolina and Michigan should be a real knock-down affair.
The four-man teams from both schools hooked up in a spirited competition at Splitsville Luxury Lanes, the downtown bowling and billiards emporium, and the Gamecocks prevailed with breakaway rolls in the late frames.
By the time the smoke cleared, the trash-talking ended, and the thunderous sounds of gridiron strongmen chucking spherical balls down wooden lanes subsided, USCs squad of receiver Ace Sanders, quarterback Dylan Thompson, safety D.J. Swearinger and defensive tackle Byron Jerideau hurled the Gamecocks to a 448-383 victory.
The tone was set with an intense pre-match staredown between Sanders and Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, the very loud and extremely verbose leader of the Wolverine keglers. But in the end, Sanders got the final word.
I had to let him know that it was a tough-fought game, but I told him that I dont lose personal battles, Sanders said.
Gardner frequently tried to intimidate the USC bowlers one lane over, but they were having none of it, especially Swearinger, who responded by shaking his dreadlocks and showing off some fancy footwork before releasing the ball.
South Carolina claimed the win despite the teams top bowler, tailback Kenny Miles, being sidelined with a sore shoulder. Miles was unable to bring his 200-plus scores to the match, stating that being healthy for the upcoming football game was a tad bit more important than the game of ten-pins.
Id rather win the bowl game than the bowling, a smiling Miles said, as he stood lane-side giving coaching advice to the USC team.
But the Gamecocks now have a chance to win both.
Thompson, who stated beforehand that he had no clue why he had been picked to participate, contributed a number of clutch spares, and Jerideau rolled a pair of strikes in the final frame. DeVonte Holloman kept telling the 316-pound Jerideau, USCs strongest player, to simply throw the ball through the air directly at the pins and not waste his time rolling it.
Three of USCs bowlers everyone except Sanders didnt even bother to place their fingers in the balls holes before releasing it. And they all wore their normal sneakers instead of gaudy bowling shoes. Yet the lack of form didnt keep them from getting the job done, something Sanders hopes to keep rolling at Raymond James Stadium.
We came up here to win everything, he said.