Spurrier pleased with bowl preparations

Contrary to what he announced on Saturday, Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks did not go through a brief practice Sunday morning. Instead, they practiced for a full hour and a half at Williams-Brice Stadium Sunday afternoon. It was the next-to-last practice for Carolina before they break for Christmas.

"We've had very good practices," said Spurrier. "I think the guys are anxious to get their bowl gifts tomorrow morning. They're anxious to get home for Christmas, and then anxious to get down there and play the ball game."

Most people have assumed that playing in his hometown of Tampa would provide extra motivation for quarterback Stephen Garcia to play well in the Outback Bowl. Garcia has said so himself, and Spurrier at times has noted the chance for extra motivation. However, on Sunday, Spurrier said he wants to see Garcia play his best regardless of the outside circumstances.

"Really he should be as up as he could be to be starting a bowl game as a redshirt freshman," he said. "Not many quarterbacks get a chance to do that. I'm just trying to get him to learn the plays better. He knows them decently, but not as well as he should. I'd like for him to have that Tim Tebow attitude that nobody is going to work as hard as me. If Stephen Garcia says that, you guys tell me. He's got to learn how to work at it himself."

Dustin Lindsey and Spencer Lanning both practiced Sunday as they await a ruling on their academic appeals. As of right now, both are suspended for the Outback Bowl. Guard Lemuel Jeanpierre also practiced, and was wearing a garnet jersey for the first time since returning from his injury, and is likely to play against Iowa.

"He's pushing and shoving a little bit," said Spurrier. "He'll dress out. He's about 100%."

Spurrier had a long and entertaining adversarial relationship with former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, trading barbs in the media. If Lane Kiffin's first three weeks on the job are any indications, Spurrier and Kiffin will have the same relationship. Shortly after Kiffin was hired, Spurrier questioned whether Kiffin had passed the certification test needed to talk to recruits. Kiffin recently responded, noting that he had scored a 39 out of 40, and wondered what Spurrier's score was.

"I have always passed it," was all Spurrier said. "I know he's smarter than me, no question about that. I barely graduated from college. I know I'm not the smartest dude out there, but it's no big deal."

When Spurrier spotted a reporter wearing an old Tampa Bay Buccaneers hat, he mentioned that he was rooting for the Detroit Lions today. Unfortunately for Spurrier, the Lions fell 42-7 to the New Orleans Saints, leaving them 0-15. That loss leaves them tied for the most losses in a season, and one more loss shy of joining Spurrier's 1976 Bucs as the only teams to go through an entire season without a win. The Bucs were an expansion team that year, with low expectations for a roster comprised of players that other teams did not want.

"I'm pulling for the Detroit Lions. I want to maintain that record of being on the losingest NFL team," Spurrier said. "They got me in a trade, but I felt like one of those guys. If we would have won two games, they would have thought that was a good year."

M. Brown discusses players-only meeting, improved team morale

The Gamecocks are preparing for the Outback Bowl despite a season-ending slump that saw them suffer blowout losses to Florida and Clemson. The mood around practice this week would hardly suggest a team that is down, though. Players credit much of the renewed enthusiasm to a players-only meeting held following the Clemson loss.

That meeting was called by wide receiver Moe Brown, and Brown and quarterbacks Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia were among 10-15 layers who spoke to the team. The fact that Brown called the meeting came as something of a surprise, since he is not one of the team's stars or most visible players. That led to the suggestion that Brown is a leader behind the scenes, something he laughed off.

"I'm not behind the scenes for the players," Brown said. "For the fans and the like, they don't need to know [about my leadership]."

Brown seemed genuinely surprised that the meeting had drawn the attention it did and that his role was of such interest. He admitted a preference for remaining low-profile, and said he is not looking for any accolades for his leadership.

"I guess y'all just don't know," he said. "I'm not the type of person that really wants to be in the spotlight. I really didn't want this getting out, but Garcia kind of leaked it. I've always been like that my whole life, from a little boy on up to [when] I got here. It's just in me to be a leader. If I feel like something needs to be said for the benefit of the team, somebody is going to say it, and if nobody says it, it's going to be me. I've always been the person in the background screaming, cheering them on, trying to get everybody to do what they are supposed to."

The exact content of the players-only meeting has been kept fairly quiet, but it had less to do with any internal strife or Xs and Os than it did with morale and positive thinking.

"We just felt that the team was kind of flat and morale was kind of down," Brown said. "We just needed to talk amongst ourselves and check why we're here and what we're trying to do. It helped us reenergize ourselves and know why we're here, to win and get better."

The returns have been positive thus far. The generally positive feelings around practice have been noted by most observers, and Brown shares that opinion.

"We came in the first day kind of upbeat, and it's been catapulting all the way through these practices," he said. "You can tell with the effort from the coaches down to the players that everybody is glad to be out here and having fun and just enjoying playing football."

Brown also echoed the team mantra this December. Coaches and players have all been saying the same thing. Win the Outback Bowl, and everyone will forget about the ugly end to the season.

"You're only as good as your last game, and if we win this bowl game it could catapult us into the offseason," Brown said.

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