November 26, 2007

Boyd reflects on season, career with USC

Five straight losses are not how Cory Boyd envisioned his career at South Carolina would end.

Instead, when USC peaked at No. 6 in the BCS standings following a 21-15 victory over North Carolina on Oct. 13, he, like most people, thought the Gamecocks had a legitimate shot of playing in a New Year's Day Bowl, or better.

But those hopes have faded, and now the Gamecocks are battling just to get into a minor bowl game with a 6-6 record.

Based on his uncharacteristically quiet demeanor after the Clemson game, the travails of the last five games may have affected Boyd more than any other Gamecock player.

"I look back and I'm still trying to figure out where we went wrong," Boyd said. "That's the most frustrating thing about it because I still think we're a good team. We went out there and put it all on the line. It just didn't happen for us. We lost just about every game in the second half of the season. There's really no answer until you really step back from the game for a little bit and reevaluate every game."

After spending five years in Columbia, Boyd played his final regular season game for the Gamecocks Saturday night against arch-rival Clemson, rushing for 74 yards on 19 carries and making one pass reception for 39 yards.

But it wasn't enough to prevent a last-second 23-21 loss to the Tigers.

"We went out there and played the best game we felt we could play," Boyd said. "Certain things didn't go our way. It's just sad to see it end this way. At one point we were at our best. It seemed like nothing could go wrong."

Boyd doesn't view the current losing streak as a step back for the program, but more of a 'wake-up call' for the USC football program.

"We have to let the younger guys that you have to go out and play week in and week out," Boyd said. "This season as a whole was up-and-down for everybody. We had our highs. This program is definitely going to do some good things. We had a young team. That's something people don't understand. I feel they responded very well. But we still have work to do."

He moved past Warren Muir into 10th place on USC's all-time rushing list with 2,267 career yards, and should USC get a bowl bid, he'll have a realistic chance of finishing as high as eighth on the ladder ahead of Kevin Long (2,372 yards) and Clarence Williams (2,311).

Boyd has already set a single-season career high with 903 rushing yards this season. He had a team-high 823 yards in 2006 following a one-year sabbatical for violating team rules.

With a bowl game possibly remaining, USC is 25-23 in Boyd's four seasons as an active player. He sees better days ahead for the Gamecocks despite the current five-game losing streak.

"Looking at this program when it was down to where it's at now, there are going to be some great things happening here," Boyd said. "People have to just keep believing, and putting in the work and the time."

Boyd finished the 2007 regular season career with a flourish, averaging 93.0 yards (372 total yards) in the final four games after splitting snaps with Mike Davis in the first half of the campaign.

But, that now seems like a millennium ago.

"I don't know which way it turned. Maybe it was just a long season," Boyd said. "We had a lot of games. If you look back, we definitely had some goods that we did. And we had terrible things that we did. But we can't point fingers at anybody but ourselves. At times, we shot ourselves in the foot when we had some opportunities. Sometimes we didn't seize the moment."

Does Boyd want one more chance to put on the Gamecock uniform? Absolutely. But he knows USC will remain in bowl limbo until the official announcements are made on Monday.

"That's up to the bowl people," Boyd said. "I'm just a player. We'll see if they decide to take a team that' lost five in a row. We are bowl eligible, and that was one of our goals. It was a good year, even with the losses. We learned a lot about ourselves."

Boyd will likely be selected no later than the middle rounds of the 2008 NFL Draft next April. But he acknowledges the next few months could be filled with anguish.

"It's frustrating not to know what you future holds with football and my career," Boyd said. "This may be the last time I'm in the locker room at Williams-Brice with the same group of guys. It just seemed like it all came ands went so fast. I was just reminiscing about things when I first got here (in 2003) to this final game. Who knows, this might be my last game.

"I'm definitely going to miss the fans and the media and my teammates and definitely the whole State of South Carolina. It's just helped me grow into a man."

Boyd's final carry of the Clemson game was a one-yard gain on third-and-4 from the USC 34. As a result, USC was forced to punt the ball back to Clemson. The Tigers started from their 22 and drove deep into UC territory, converting a fourth-down in the process, for the game-winning field goal with no time left.

Many people, including some in the media, were questioning the third-down play call after the game.

"I wasn't surprised (by the play call)," Boyd said. "We were trying to milk the clock out. (Spurrier) did what any other coach would do. The play didn't get executed the way we needed to execute it. You see the results. We had to punt."

Boyd said he would miss most the fanatical support of the USC fans and his teammates.

"It's a great atmosphere here," Boyd said. "It's definitely a place where you can come and grow into a man. It's not just about football. That's the best thing about it. When the recruits come here for a visit, that's what I try to tell them. You're going to become a man before anything. The football part is just the key to where you want to go."

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