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November 26, 2011

Miles takes his place in the rivalry



In a season unlike any other in terms of starters going down and the backups rising to replace them, South Carolina saved its best for last.

Kenny Miles, take a bow.

"I'm just glad we beat Clemson," the No. 14 Gamecocks' redshirt junior tailback beamed in the aftermath of a 34-13 trashing of No. 18 Clemson, USC's third straight win in the rivalry and one that tied the Gamecocks' greatest single-season win total (10). "My dad always used to tell me - 'Always be ready so that you don't have to get ready.' I was prepared to come out. I studied film as if I was the starter."

In a move as unscripted and flabbergasting as Truman beating Dewey, the Gamecocks yanked Brandon Wilds, their freshman tailback who had posted three 100-yard games in his first four starts, early in the second quarter. Wilds had missed a block to allow a sack, and lined up wrong which forced a timeout, and wasn't running as hard as usual, so Steve Spurrier sat him down.

The move was probably only meant to be a wake-up call for Wilds, because after Miles, the Gamecocks' tailback rotation was down to Eric Baker and walk-on Josh Hinch. But USC was pulverizing Clemson's defensive line and Spurrier wasn't going to stop running the ball, so he put Miles in and told him to run.

Despite having another year of eligibility, Miles was honored for Senior Day. With the writing on the wall - Marcus Lattimore, Shon Carson, Wilds and freshman Kendric Salley will all be around to tote the rock next year - the decision was made by Miles and Spurrier that perhaps he might try to play his final year elsewhere. With a degree already in hand, Miles was free to go.

But he had business to take care of first.

His first run was where he plunged through the line, got facemasked but kept going, not stopping until he was 28 yards downfield. Miles was in the holes and carrying tacklers with him, churning the legs and keeping his small but muscular shoulders elevated.

Miles rushed 21 times for 71 yards, also catching three passes for 26 yards. He didn't score, but if it was his last home game at USC, he walked out with his head held high and a stamp on the rivalry. Miles has had an up-and-down career with the Gamecocks, every high dragged down by two or three lows, but stuck it out and had himself the only big game he ever needed to have.

In a program that has never had much to celebrate, it's the players that do the most against Clemson that are always remembered. Miles joined the ranks on Saturday.

"I really played hard for my folks, and it was exciting," Miles said. "It was a big game."

"Kenny had a super game," Spurrier said. "I'm really proud of Kenny."

Spurrier said that he joked that Miles may get to go through Senior Day twice, and Miles said the decision would be up to the coaches. Each side may have something to think about after Saturday. Even if Miles may be the fourth or fifth back on the roster, he can produce.

That decision will be made in the offseason. For now, Miles has one more game to play (at least) as a Gamecock and more yards to collect.

He'll get his chance. Why shouldn't he?

Heroes always get one more day.

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