Five Keys To Victory Against Iowa

Read inside as GamecockAnthem.com's Wes Mitchell takes a look at South Carolina's five keys to victory in Thursday's Outback Bowl clash against the Iowa Hawkeyes.


I. Slow down Shonn Greene

Iowa running back Shonn Greene rushed for 1,729 yards this season on his way to winning the Doak Walker Award. The consensus All-American is the only FBS back to rush for over 100 yards in every game this season. The Gamecocks' defense was ranked among the top units in the country all season, until giving up a combined 87 points against Florida and Clemson in the final two games. Greene will be the biggest obstacle in the way of the defense potentially getting back on track.

Greene has been a one-man wrecking crew all season running around and through every defense he's faced with a season-low of 103 yards rushing against Illinois. If the Gamecocks can keep the bruiser around that mark it should give them a chance. Even keeping him around 100 yards could be a tall task as Greene has rushed for 130 or more yards in 7 of the Hawkeyes' 12 contests this season. The Gamecock defense does have experience against big-time backs holding the SEC's leading rusher Knowshon Moreno to 79 yards and Arkansas' Michael Smith to 25 yards though he did run the ball just 7 times. Much like facing Darren McFadden in years' past the Gamecocks shouldn't hope to stop Greene, but just to slow him down and keep him around the 100-yard mark.


II. Get off the field

The losses of Emanuel Cook (academics) and Akeem Auguste (injury) severely hurt the Gamecocks' depth at safety. The Hawkeyes are also a team that will run right at the opposition's defense and dare them to stop Greene. While a defense always needs to get stops on third downs, these two factors make it even more important for the Gamecocks to get rest to avoid getting worn down by the fourth quarter.

The New Year's Day contest could be a fourth quarter game and Greene will be right in his comfort zone if he is pounding on a beaten and battered Gamecock defense. There will likely come a time late in the game where the defense will need to get off the field to give the offense a chance to win. Whether they have stopped the Hawkeyes on third downs throughout the game could directly determine if they can accomplish that feat when they need to most.


III. Make some room up front

According to reliable sources, the Carolina offensive linemen have shown a renewed since of vigor and passion in the trenches since interim line coach Cedric Williams took over. The USC offensive attack will need for that practice play to transfer over to Raymond James Stadium for the offense to move the football. As mentioned in the previous keys to victory, the Gamecock defense will need to get some rest, and running the football successfully would go a long way towards that. It won't be easy against an Iowa defense that ranks 10th in the nation against the run. While the USC running backs haven't been incredibly productive this season, senior Mike Davis and freshman Eric Baker can be successful with a little room to run. The rushing attack doesn't have to be dominant, but just breaking off a few decent runs could slow the Iowa 4-man rush long enough to give quarterback Stephen Garcia a chance to throw comfortably.


IV. Play a solid game at QB

The two things holding the Gamecocks back the most this season have been quarterback and offensive line play. Garcia will get his first true chance to show he can be the guy after practicing with the first team for all of the bowl practices. The biggest thing for Garcia to do to have some success will be to play within himself and not try to make too much happen. Spurrier has talked often about Garcia's need to "trust the play" and let it develop, but even tucking and running too early is better than throwing an ill-advised pass into coverage. If Garcia can play well it could go a long way for the Gamecocks, not just in the Outback Bowl, but into the next season as it could mean Spurrier has finally found his guy to take the Cock 'n Fire to the next level.


V. Start Fast

The Gamecocks have had trouble early in games recently, going down 21-0 to Florida and 24-0 to Clemson. The Hawkeyes are the type team that can run the opposition out of the stadium if they get a lead and play "keep away." However, they aren't nearly as effective when playing from behind. A quick score from the Gamecock offense or just staying even early could go a long way for a Gamecock team that has been beaten up a lot lately. How the Gamecocks start the game could determine how the entire contest unfolds as well as the type momentum the USC program takes into the new year.


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