Garcia primed for better bowl outing

On a chilly Thursday in Columbia, the South Carolina football team was back at work practicing for their bowl game. Much of the focus during this year's bowl practice has been on quarterback Stephen Garcia, who is looking to bounce back from an abysmal performance in last year's Outback Bowl against Iowa.

Steve Spurrier said that his quarterback and team are in better spirits this year, but are taking a similar approach in preparing for this bowl game.

"We've got a little bit better team spirit and team chemistry this year, but hopefully it'll pay off in the way we play," noted Spurrier.

After four turnovers against the Hawkeyes last year, Garcia is looking to complete a breakout season in which he was unchallenged as the starting quarterback. According to the Head Ball Coach, that all comes down to him being ready for the game on January 2nd.

"He just wasn't ready to play (last year)," said Spurrier. "He's much better prepared now, he's thinking a lot better, so he should play a lot better this game, certainly. He's gotten a lot better. He's really improved."

But despite the confidence that Spurrier's comments may give South Carolina fans, when pressed to compare UConn's defensive scheme to another team, Spurrier suggested the Huskies were very similar to those same Iowa Hawkeyes.

"Similar to Iowa, they play a scheme similar to (them)," added Spurrier. "UConn's a tough team, they're a physical team. They'll try to run it down our throat just like they ran it down Notre Dame's throat. We've got to be ready; we've got to be tough. We'll find out if we can matchup to those guys."

"Evening with the Gamecocks" connects players with kids in need

For one night at least, the Gamecock players and coaches were able to take their minds off football and towards a bigger cause. Thursday marked the ninth annual "Evening with the Gamecocks" dinner where the South Carolina football family has dinner and interacts with children battling cancer.

The event, which took place at The Zone in Williams-Brice Stadium, was put on by Children's Chance, an organization helping families battle pediatric cancer in South Carolina.

Coach Spurrier said his players and coaches always look forward to reaching out to the community with an event like this.

"We always look forward to our dinner with the kids," asserted Spurrier. "We do this annually, our players look forward to having dinner with them, signing a bunch of autographs, taking pictures, and hopefully bringing a little happiness to these youngsters."

Garcia not worried about distractions heading into Bowl

Prior to last year's Outback Bowl in Tampa, much was made of the fact that Stephen Garcia was returning to his hometown on perhaps the biggest stage of his career. If it was in fact the biggest stage, it was also the biggest letdown, as the then redshirt freshman quarterback threw three interceptions and fumbled in the first half before being replaced by Chris Smelley.

Garcia said that he has moved on from the game, and hopes to be a completely different quarterback in the bowl game and into next year.

"(I) just tried to force too much," said Garcia of his performance in the Outback Bowl last year. "That's really all that happened, and it just went downhill from there. I'm not worried about it, it was last year. A lot of bad things happened last year, so I'm not really worried about it."

One of the most interesting storylines before the Outback Bowl was Spurrier's displeasure with Garcia's lack of preparation prior to the game. Spurrier allegedly caught Garcia playing video games when he felt his young quarterback should have been going over film of the Iowa defense.

"Yeah, he was pretty upset about that," stated Garcia. "He was right. I shouldn't have been doing that, I should have been going over tape or plays, but I wasn't.

"He asked what I was doing and I told him. I didn't think he was going to be upset about it," joked Garcia. "I'm not going to tell you what he said, but it wasn't good."

Garcia also reassured Gamecocks fans who may be worried about distractions, saying, "We're not bringing the video games with us this year."


- USC coaches Steve Spurrie, G.A. Mangus and Brad Lawing flew to Philadelphia after practice Thursday evening, for an in-home visit with five-star defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.

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