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Hawkeyes feast on Gamecocks in Outback Bowl

Published on 01/02/09
BY TRAVIS HANEY
The Post and Courier

TAMPA, Fla. — Stephen

Garcia's return home turned out to be a disaster. The end of South Carolina's season could be categorized in the same manner.

Four Garcia turnovers in the first four possessions put the Gamecocks in a gigantic hole, and Iowa didn't mind throwing the dirt on in a 31-10 Outback Bowl rout in front of an announced crowd of 55,117 fans at Raymond James Stadium.

"Give Iowa credit for kicking our tails today," said Steve Spurrier, now 1-2 in bowls at South Carolina.

But the Independence and Liberty bowls were tight; this one wasn't. The Hawkeyes

outhustled and outmuscled USC from the start.

The Gamecocks trailed 31-0 entering the fourth quarter.

Bowl MVP Shonn Greene, the Iowa junior bound for the NFL, didn't even have to play that last quarter after running for 121 yards and three touchdowns in the first three.

Garcia didn't play the second

half — giving way to the

embattled Chris Smelley — but for entirely different reasons.

Adding the Outback demise to the lackluster efforts at Florida

and Clemson, South Carolina lost its final three games by a combined score of 118-30.

"We're all frustrated. We've really been embarrassed the last three weeks," said Smelley, who played a big part in the Florida and Clemson calamities. "We were prepared and ready to play. I guess the only thing you can say is Iowa came out here and kicked our butts."

A 7-3 start has ended in a 7-6 season for USC. And the sputter

feels similar to last season's five-game losing streak to close out the year.

Iowa won six of its final seven games following a 3-3 start. The Hawkeyes (9-4) should give the Gamecocks a how-to lesson about finishing off a year.

Spurrier is now 28-22 in four seasons with the Gamecocks after losing 27 games in 12 years at Florida.

The injury-plagued defense faltered a year ago for USC. A struggling offense has been the common denominator in this season's slide.

The Gamecocks ran for an Outback Bowl-low 43 yards, with Garcia as the leading rusher (25 yards).

The team's first two offensive plays were a pure indication as to what sort of day it was going to be.

The first was a handoff to Mike Davis, who was immediately engulfed in a herd of black and gold and wrestled down for a 3-yard loss.

Davis, a senior playing his last game, ran three times for 3 yards.

Garcia's first throw of the game, on the next play, sailed well over tight end Weslye Saunders' head and into safety Tyler Sash's arms.

Garcia said he threw the ball too early.

"It was a Christmas present," said Sash, who collected another

Garcia pick later in the half.

The late holiday gift and Sash's return got Iowa to the USC 18-yard line. Five plays later, Greene was standing in the end zone for the first time and the Hawkeyes were up 14-0.

Garcia fumbled on the next possession, but Iowa missed a field goal. Garcia threw an interception in the end zone on the next drive, and the Hawkeyes went 80 yards in nine plays to go up 21.

Garcia's final interception was immediately made moot by a Ricky Stanzi pick in the end zone.

USC had to feel fortunate being down just three touchdowns at the half.

"We threw it right to them, and we fumbled right to them," Spurrier said. "I thought we would play better offensively.

"I don't know why we couldn't play the game the way to give us a chance to win."

Inside the halftime locker room, Spurrier turned to Smelley and told him he'd handle the second half. Both Garcia and Smelley said that move surprised them, since Smelley had been allowed to finish the Clemson game after throwing three first-half interceptions.

Smelley was relatively efficient, leading to two USC scoring drives. By then, though, it was about saving face.

South Carolina is now 4-10 in bowl games.

Sloppiness hurt USC throughout.

The Gamecocks were hit for 10 penalties for 100 yards, and two additional personal foul calls were negated by Iowa penalties.

Typifying things, USC had a field goal taken away because it had 10 men on the field — and, thus, not enough men on the line of scrimmage. Ryan Succop missed the ensuing kick quite badly from 51 yards.

At least one Gamecock thought some players threw in the towel — even though the team held Iowa to 10 second-half points and scored all of its points in the fourth quarter.

"The guys, it just seems like we gave up toward the end of the game," corner Captain Munnerlyn said. "Guys on this team, they're going to do what they're going to do. That's the type of attitude they have. I hope we get rid of some of them guys."

Munnerlyn, a junior, is expected to turn pro.

"It wasn't our best game," he said. "Iowa just did their thing."

Reach Travis Haney at thaney@postandcourier.com and check out the South Carolina blog at www.charleston.net/blogs/gamecocks.

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GO GAMECOCKS!