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Gamecocks Carey on winning ways

The porn star, she has a chance to govern California after all.

Lou Holtz mixed one of his classic poor mouth-fresh rhetorical cocktails mouth last week. He was asked what his woeful, undermanned, unprepared, outclassed South Carolina team's chances were against mighty, impregnable, unstoppable, No. 15 juggernaut Virginia.

"Comparable," Holtz said, "to that stripper running for governor in California."

(This from a man who once began his coach's show at Arkansas after a bad loss by saying, "Welcome to the Lou Holtz Show. Unfortunately, I'm Lou Holtz.")

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    But things are looking up -- in Columbia, and in the campaign headquarters of Mary Carey.

    Carey -- whose campaign platform includes a "porn for pistols" initiative to get guns off the streets -- is ready to make a run at Arnold and the boys. The porn star and the Gamecocks (and no lewd jokes about the linking of the two) received a big boost Saturday.

    Just look at the polls. South Carolina's 31-7 pounding of the Cavaliers (who played without Heisman Trophy candidate QB Matt Schaub) moved Holtz's allegedly downtrodden program up to 25th in the nation in the AP poll. This was a Lou Holtz special: home underdog against a flawed ranked opponent.

    A big game. A Lou Holtz game. He's won a few like that over the years -- but none last year, going 0-4 against ranked teams and 0-7 against bowl teams, in a 5-7 season.

    This was different. This was an authoritative South Carolina win, and perhaps a sign that 2002 was just a dip after the serendipitous two previous seasons. So, heading into the annual bellwether game against Georgia, apparently anything is possible for the Gamecocks.

    First, though, Holtz might have to consider an apology to candidate Carey and his football team. Don't underestimate either one.

    Carey, who has done interviews in a bikini top, voiced her demand for more respect from the coach to The Columbia State this week. She wanted to be known as a multifaceted porn queen, not just a chick who does lap dances.

    The coach seems to have listened.

    "Apparently she's more than a stripper," Holtz said. "I guess she's more of a Playboy girl, or a film star. I hear she's upset with me."

    Holtz chuckled.

    "Maybe we're a little bit more than a simple football team," he said.

    Maybe so. They've already won a game most people doubted they could win, but we'll know a lot more after the Gamecocks' trip between the hedges Saturday.

    Over the past three seasons, the winner of the Georgia-South Carolina game has gone on to have a dream season. The Gamecocks won in 2000 and '01, on their way to back-to-back trips and victories over Ohio State in the Outback Bowl. The Bulldogs won last year, on their way to their first SEC title in two decades and a 13-1 record.

    All three have been taut defensive battles. South Carolina won the first two 21-10 and 14-9 (the latter on a last-minute touchdown catch by Brian Scott). Georgia won the other 13-7, highlighted by end David Pollack's remarkable quarterback strip/interception in the end zone -- and aided considerably by two Andrew Pinnock fumbles inside the Georgia 2.

    "It was huge for us," Richt said of the win last year. "We very easily could have lost that game, and the Clemson game (the week before). It gave us momentum, it gave us confidence."

    "It's your first conference game, and both teams put great emphasis on that," Holtz said. "After this game, if you're not successful your confidence goes down and your enthusiasm level goes down."

    As always, Holtz was quick with his pregame hosannahs of the opponent -- but you really don't have to reach for ways to compliment the 'Dogs.

    "They're playing with a great deal of confidence," Holtz said. "They're a complete team -- offense, defense and the kicking game. ... Our kicking game is a major concern. This is the first time we're taking a young team on the road. To win on the road you need to have a complete team. Right no we aren't a complete team."

    Perhaps not. But the Gamecocks were a physically punishing team against Virginia. Sure, they had a 99-yard touchdown pass to break the game open, but the locked it down in the fourth quarter by running over the Cavaliers in a classic display of Holtz Powerball.

    A 13-play, 80-yard, six-minute drive for a touchdown made it 24-7 and effectively ended the game. Tailback Daccus Turman ran for 123 yards on 18 carries, the first Gamecock running back to hit triple digits since 2001.

    "They basically gutted them at the end of the game," Richt said. "They just took that game over.

    "It's the most helpless thing in the world when an offensive team can just run it down your throat and you know they're going to do it. One of my biggest concerns is how they believe in their physical play."

    Of course, doing that against Georgia is another issue entirely. The Bulldogs lead the league in scoring defense (10 points allowed in two games) and are second in rushing defense (51 yards allowed per game).

    This one should again be close, and defense-oriented. South Carolina is definitely the underdog, but we'll give Lou Holtz something better than a stripper's chance in Cali of pulling off another upset.

    Pat Forde covers college football for the Louisville Courier-Journal.